E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Fresh Produce Consortium criticises UK Government

8th July 2011

Nigel Jenny, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) has criticised the UK government for what it describes as a damaging and misleading response to the deadly European E.coli crisis that has left this country's fresh produce industry in turmoil.

Speaking after the European Commission implemented a ban on imports of certain types of seeds and beans from Egypt, Mr Jenny says that recent meetings with UK government ministers had also convinced him that, "they have no perception of the impact of this crisis on the UK fresh produce industry and growers. They see it as a problem for other countries in Europe."

An FPC spokeswoman has said that European Food Safety Authoritys (EFSA) import ban on some Egyptian seeds and beans risked making things worse, as CN codes (international product identity codes) targeting specific goods linked to the outbreaks also included fresh produce such as peas and dwarf beans. Weve flagged this issue up via our EU contacts and the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Its unbelievable that fresh produce is again being penalised were very concerned, she said.

The FPC also believes that the UK FSAs current advice to consumers that they should eat only cooked 'raw sprouted seeds' is misleading and overly precautionary

An FSA spokesman replied: The FSAs advice is clear and consistent: in the current situation, we advise against eating any raw sprouted seeds. This is consistent with guidance from EFSA. It is precautionary advice and is being kept under review as the investigation develops. Consumer safety is our number one priority.

The FPC said that lost sales revenues for UK producers of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuces as a result of the crisis total 54m, while bean sprout sales losses have hit 30m.

Mr Jenney said a 210m (187m) EU compensation pot via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) was too little, too late: was only open to growers, only covered losses for an unduly limited period - unlike in other EU states - and didnt include products such as bean sprouts.

He added that applications had also been blighted by an administration systems failure at DEFRA, which the ministry has denied. He also challenged it to do more to fight the cause of UK industry within the EU.

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