BERLIN, May 26 (Xinhua) -- German health officials said Thursday that cucumbers imported from Spain was one source of a recent deadly E. coli outbreak in northern states that killed three people and made hundreds sick.
The Hamburg Institute for Hygiene and the Environment (HU) found that four cucumbers in a local market were contaminated by Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), and three of them were imported from two separate Spanish suppliers, Hamburg state health authorities said.
The origin of the fourth cucumber was still under investigation, officials added.
German supermarkets began to pull Spanish cucumbers off shelves Thursday afternoon following the findings in Hamburg. The food- monitoring agencies in the northern states were launching investigations on vegetable markets, the federal agriculture ministry said in a statement.
Figures showed that Spain is Germany's second largest supplier of cucumbers within the European Union, accounting for some 40 percent of the country's cucumber imports.
Scientists said that EHEC is a virulent strain of gut bacterium that can cause severe stomach upsets, diarrhea, stroke and coma. It would lead to kidney failure in extreme cases.
Germany saw a terrible E. coli outbreak two weeks ago, starting from the northern states like Hamburg and then spreading to eastern and southern regions. German health authorities said that at least three people have died from infections, and more than 200 have been diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), which is caused by EHEC.
Germany's national disease centre, the Robert Koch Institute, suggest people avoid eating raw tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce for a while.