Spain's Prime Minister hit out at the European Commission and Germany on June 2 for singling out the country's produce as a possible source of a deadly bacterial outbreak in Europe, and said the government would demand explanations and reparations.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the EU commission “was slow because from the moment the minister in Hamburg had ruled it (E.coli outbreak) was not caused by Spanish cucumbers it should have reacted more decisively and faster.”

The bacteria outbreak has killed 17 people, most in Germany, over the past week. The crisis paralysed Spanish exports of fruit and vegetables.

Zapatero told Spanish National Radio that the German federal government was ultimately responsible for the allegations, adding that Spain would seek “conclusive explanations and sufficient reparations.”

Spanish farmers say the wrongful accusations have devastated their credibility and thus their exports to the rest of Europe. In Valencia, protesting farmers dumped some 300 kilograms (700 pounds) of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other produce outside the German consulate.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has said the E. coli bacteria is a new strain that has never been seen before.

Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with lethal genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.

So far, the mutant E. coli strain has sickened more than 1,500 others, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication. Reasearchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause the outbreak, which has hit at least nine European countries.

Russia extends ban

Fearful of the outbreak spreading into Russia, the country extended its ban on vegetable imports to all of the EU. Russia had banned fresh imports from Spain and Germany on Monday.

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 12,000, and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak.

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