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Economy

Worst of E coli over, Germany says, as cases reported in France

media Investigators arrive at an organic farm in Germany on Monday Reuters/Fabian Bimmer

The worst of the E coli outbreak is over, German Health Minister Daniel Bahr said on Wednesday ahead of a European meeting on the crisis. But one case has been confirmed in France and 12 other possible ones are reported.

The number of new infections from the E coli bacteria strain that has left at least 24 people dead was falling, Bahr said on television Wednesday, adding that “the worst of the illness is behind us”.

But he warned that there will probably be new cases and more deaths.

French officials confirmed one definite case of E coli on Wednesday and another probable one. In all 13 cases of bloody diarrhoea have been reported in France by people who had recently visited or lived in Germany since the outbreak began.

Bahr and Consumer Affairs Minister Ilse Aigner were due to meet their European Union counterparts and public health institute representatives in Berlin Wednesday.

EU health commissioner John Dalli, who as also set to attend, called for closer cooperation between German and foreign experts in fighting the outbreak in an interview with Die Welt, as criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis grew inside and outside the country.

European agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos called on Germany to quickly find the origin of the outbreak. A number of mistaken attributions of blame to various vegetables have cost EU farmers “hundreds of millions of euros”, according to Belgian Agriculture Minister Sabine Laruelle.

Ciolos has promised to “substantially” increase the 150 million euros of compensation offered to farmers.

Russia has hinted it may drop its ban on EU vegetable imports ahead of a two-day summit in Nizhny Novgorod to be attended by President Dmitry Medvedev and EU chiefs, including commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU president Heman Van Rompuy.

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