Ukraine Tightens Control Over Vegetable Imports From EU

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine has tightened controls over vegetables imported from the European Union as the region struggles with a deadly E. coli outbreak, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Thursday.

Vegetables imported from the EU are being checked by the Ukrainian phytosanitary office..

"Ukraine from the beginning of this phenomenon has taken action to protect its people, but we did not advertise it," Azarov told reporters. "The team of border guards was ordered to tighten control over European vegetables, and at the moment they continue to do it."

The prime minister said all vegetables imported from the EU are being checked by the Ukrainian phytosanitary office.

Azarov spoke as Germany, where the outbreak started more than a week ago,struggles to find the exact source of contamination.

The outbreak has killed 18 people and sickened more than 1,500 others across Europe, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication, according to the latest reports.

Researchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness, which has hit at least nine European countries, and prompted Russia on Thursday to extend a ban on vegetables to the entire European Union.

The World Health Organization said that the E. coli bacteria responsible for the outbreak is a new strain that has never been seen before.

The outbreak is already considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world history, and it may be the deadliest.

Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 9,000, and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak.

Source: Xinhua