Switzerland’s second-largest supermarket chain, Coop, has pulled Spanish cucumbers off its shelves after authorities in Germany found the produce partly responsible for a deadly food-poisoning outbreak there.
“We have decided to no longer sell Spanish cucumbers in order to rule out any hazard they may present,” Denise Stadler, a Coop press spokesperson, told the newspaper Blick.
According to her, stores have not had large amounts of the produce on hand, but the cucumbers have been available. People who have bought Spanish cucumbers can bring them back to stores, she said.
“The danger that the cucumbers are tainted is small, but we can’t rule it out,” she added.
German authorities had been feverishly trying to find the cause of an outbreak of EHEC, a deadly strain of the E. coli bacteria that has killed five people and infected hundreds more. More than 200 people have been confirmed as having haemolytic-uraemic syndrome (HUS), a serious complication of EHEC.
Early cases appeared in northern Germany but infections have now spread to other regions of the country. Ten cases have been reported in Sweden, four in Denmark, three in Britain and one in the Netherlands.
Scientists says Spanish cucumbers from the provinces of Almeria and Malaga are at least partly to blame for the infections.
A third suspect batch of cucumbers from the Netherlands, but sold in Germany, was under investigation while German authorities continued to hunt for other potential sources.
Other large Swiss grocery chains reported that they do not have Spanish cucumbers on offer. Migros, Switzerland’s largest food retailer, said the store had been offering only Swiss cucumbers for several weeks, largely due to high tariffs placed on foreign produce.
The Lidl and Aldi retailers also reported they had no Spanish cucumbers in their produce sections.
“Due to the good weather, we have a lot of Swiss vegetables available so we haven’t had to depend on Spanish imports,” Lidl spokesperson Paloma Martino said.