E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Contaminated seeds on market for next 3 years

11th July 2011

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) task force report on the recent E.coli outbreak states that the apparent source of the contamination (a shipment of fenugreek seeds from Egypt) has been scattered all across the continent, making recall tricky and new outbreaks likely until the seed packets reach their expiration date in three years.

The shipment of 15,000 kg (33,000 lbs) was containerized at the port of Damietta in Egypt, shipped by boat to Antwerp in Belgium, went by barge to Rotterdam in the Netherlands where it passed customs, and then was trucked to Germany. There, an importer broke up the shipment as follows:

  • 10,500 kg to a single German distributor;
  • 3,550 kg to nine other German companies;
  • 400 kg to a company in England
  • 375 kg to a Spanish company;
  • 250 kg to an Austrian distributor that sold the entire lot to a single Austrian company;

When investigators followed the seeds sales into the companies records, they realized how much more complex the trail was going to get and consider that the only protection may be the seeds own shelf life - which should be up to 5 years from original packaging. As they were first shipped 2 years ago, that means there are 3 years to go (if they were properly labeled).

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