The European Union agreed Tuesday to allow farmers hurt by the E coli food poisoning crisis to tap into a 210—million—euro (304—million—dollar) aid fund.

“This scheme ... will allow for the EU to pay producers for cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes, and sweet peppers that have been withdrawn from the market since May 26 as a result of the E coli outbreak in Northern Germany,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Tuesday’s announcement came after representatives of national EU governments had endorsed the 210—million—euro figure suggested last week by EU agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos.

German authorities on Friday confirmed that the E coli bacteria — which has killed at least 37 people and sickened thousands — came from bean sprouts, clearing cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes which were wrongly blamed before.

With the source of the contamination having been proved, Ciolos said he was “optimistic that consumption (of fruit and vegetables) will pick up very quickly” in Europe.

The commission said farmers will be able to claim up to 50 per cent of their losses, but indicated that the “final figure” will be confirmed only on July 22. Producers will be able to apply for help in the coming days, once the decision is published in the EU official journal.

Keywords: E coli