Germany, Spain discussing E. coli outbreak

June 3, 2011 at 12:37 PM
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BRUSSELS, June 3 (UPI) -- Germany and Spain have said they will apply for aid from the European Union for farmers affected by the deadly E. coli outbreak in Germany.

Spain's government said this week it might seek compensation from Germany, saying Spanish vegetable exporters were unfairly blamed for the outbreak that has caused the deaths of at least 18 people, mostly in Germany.

Authorities say the source of the outbreak, affecting at least 11 European countries, remains unknown, but they suspect it comes from infected produce and have warned the public to avoid eating raw lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a telephone call to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, acknowledged the economic stress the Spanish produce sector has experienced due to consumer backlash related to the outbreak, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Farmers in Spain stand to lose as much as $287 million a week if recent measures against the country's agricultural products -- such as import bans by countries including Russia and Belgium -- aren't removed, a Spanish farming lobby said.

German farmers are also losing around $45 million a week in sales because of the withdrawal of agricultural products from the market, the German Farmers' Association said.

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