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Spain threatens to sue Germany over killer cucumber charges

media Cucumbers are harvested on a Spanish farm Reuters/Francisco Bonilla

Spain has threatened to sue Germany over accusations that Spanish cucumbers were to blame for an outbreak of the E coli bacteria which has killed 16 people in Germany and one in Sweden.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba told a radio station Wednesday that Madrid could sue German officials for damages already estimated at more than 200 million euros.

“Our exports have been paralysed since last Friday,” Begonia Jimenez, head of the Spanish Federation of Associations of Producers told RFI. “In May, one of our strongest months for exports, we have calculated that we have lost 150 million tonnes and 100 million euros per week.”

With several countries restricting food imports and shops withdrawing produce from sale, European officials say the whole continent faces a serious crisis.

The Netherlands government has said it will seek European Union aid for vegetable growers.

The number of confirmed cases of the full-blown disease - haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) - has risen to 470 from 373 reported on Tuesday, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's national disease centre, said Wednesday.

German officials initially said Spanish cucumbers were at the origin of the outbreak but later admitted that it was a different strand of enterohamorrhagic E coli to the one responsible for it.

France has set up a crisis committee to handle the situation.

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