Europe's E.Coli Outbreak: Who's Saying What

Jun 1, 2011
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Goats eat discarded cucumbers at a farm in southern Spain. The E. coli pathogen has been identified on cucumbers imported from Spain but it is unclear if they were contaminated there, during transport or in Germany. The cucumbers pictured are not affected by the health incident and the greenhouse is not under investigation. (John Nazca/Reuters)

More than 1,500 people have been struck by a mysterious E. coli strain that is circulating Europe, and 15 more have died. As experts work to track down the source of the contamination, the outbreak has lead to a whirlwind of blame, economic despair, and fear about the potential for the strain to spread.

Here's what some of the big players in food and health are saying:

Dr. Robert Tauxe, a foodborne disease expert at the Centers for Disease Control: "There has not been such an outbreak before that we know of in the history of public health."

Brendan Wren, professor of pathogen molecular biology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: "As in many foodborne disease outbreaks, the culprit may never be identified and the epidemic just fades away."

Martin Wiedmann, a professor of food science at Cornell University: "The problem with all this is that it really is everyone's responsibility and everyone contributes their part to it. Beyond the specific outbreak, [it's important to] have practices on fields to minimize the presence of animals and to have proper procedure in processing, including testing the environment to see whether E. coli is present"

Paul Hunter, a professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in England: "There may well be a great number of asymptomatic cases out there that we're missing. This could be a much bigger outbreak than we realize right now...There might also be something genetically different about this particular strain of E. coli that makes it more virulent." 

Mohamed Jalal Al Reyaysa, head of Communications and Community Service at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority: “There is no need to panic....We have intensified our monitoring activities. We are leaving nothing to chance so that the food situation in the emirate remains absolutely free from all possible risks.”

Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health: "Watch fingerpointing."

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