May 31, 2011 / 5:58 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. eyes Spanish produce in deadly E.coli outbreak

A crate of collected cucumbers is seen at a greenhouse in Algarrobo, near Malaga, southern Spain May 30, 2011. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Shipments of cucumbers and other food grown in Spain are being inspected by U.S. health officials because of a deadly E.coli outbreak that has killed 16 people in Europe and sickened more than 1,000.

European governments scrambled to find the source of the E. coli outbreak that originated in Germany and that was first linked to contaminated Spanish cucumbers.

While the exact source is still undetermined, vegetables have been known to harbor the killer bacteria as they are grown with fertilizer using cattle manure.

“Due to the information received about the outbreak in Germany, FDA is flagging shipments of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce from Spain for further inspection,” said Doug Karas, a spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

He said the heightened calls for inspection began last week, and the FDA will continue to inspect Spanish produce until more information emerges about the cause of the outbreak.

He added that cucumbers from Spain are not imported to the United States on a large scale at this time of year.

The outbreak, which started in mid-May, has caused diplomatic tensions between Germany, Spain, France and Russia, with Moscow banning some vegetable imports and threatening to extend the ban to the whole European Union.

Spanish media reported Germany, Denmark, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Sweden, Belgium and Russia are blocking entry of Spanish cucumbers.

Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; editing by Michele Gershberg and Matthew Lewis

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