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EU Death Toll from E-coli rises to 17

Food safety authorities in Germany and the EU are intensifying their efforts to identify the source of an E-coli outbreak that has now killed 17 people - 16 in Germany and one in Sweden, said the European Commission in a statement.

The European Commission has ruled out cucumbers from Spain as the source of the contamination. While German authorities said that some of the sampled cucumbers did test positive to STEC, the tests did not confirm the presence of the specific serotype (O104), which is responsible for the outbreak affecting humans.

Similar tests carried out by the Spanish authorities on cucumber samples they collected have also had negative results.

After this development, the European Commission has removed the alert notification on Spanish cucumbers from the Rapid Alert System on Food and Feed, said the EU institution.

Investigations are still ongoing to identify the potential source of contamination. In a press conference this morning, Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli stressed: "I urge the Member States and in particular Germany to increase their efforts in that direction. We stand next to them and we will do our utmost to assist in any possible way."

In Cyprus, the ministry of health has alerted vegetable importers to be very cautious and advised consumers to wash vegetables thoroughly. Authorities are on 24-hour alert to the threat of E-coli spreading to Cyprus, said the ministry.

Meanwhile, Russia has banned all EU vegetable imports in the wake of the infection, in which 1,500 people have become ill.

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