The European Union on Wednesday lashed out at Russian officials for having yet to lift an E coli—prompted ban on EU vegetables, five days after President Dmitry Medvedev promised to do so at an EU—Russia summit.
“The (European) Commission today expressed its profound dissatisfaction that the lifting of the ban ... has not yet been implemented,” Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde said, noting that contacts “at diplomatic level” are to be made by trade officials.
“After the end of the summit, there was confirmation and a clear identification of the source of the contamination, which once again, and in a totally clear manner, underlined that this measure, which was already disproportionate, has no reason to be,” she added.
German health officials have identified sprouts grown from beans or peas as the carriers of the virulent E coli strain, which has killed at least 37 people — almost all in Germany.
Russia implemented its ban in early June, when it was still unclear how the bacterium was being spread.
EU officials have since stressed that the market garden accused of spreading the pathogen did not export any products beyond Germany and that officials there are actively working on containing the outbreak, thus making the Russian ban pointless.
But Russia’s chief doctor, Gennady Onishchenko, expressed concern in Moscow on Wednesday that new cases were still being reported.
“The situation in Europe does not make for great optimism, ... in spite of all the efforts of the EU to try and get a handle on the problem,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
“We are waiting for suggestions and certificates which will affirm the safety of produce that would be brought in (to Russia),” he added.
Medvedev had said at the conclusion of the EU—Russia summit on Friday that his country was “prepared” to lift its vegetable embargo, after the EU agreed to put into place a new certification process for vegetable safety in coordination with Russian food safety officials.
A spokesman for EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, Frederic Vincent, said the EU sent certification proposals to Russian officials that same afternoon, but has yet to receive a reply.
The certificates would guarantee that products arriving in Russia do not stem from the epicentre of the outbreak in Germany, Vincent said. He stressed that such a measure would only be temporary.
“There is no more any reason to put any restrictions in place, barring the imports by Russia of vegetables from the EU,” Ahrenkilde noted.
But an official from Russia’s national food safety agency told Interfax that it reserves the right “of imposing additional measures to protect the safety of food products that are imported into the Russian market from EU countries.”
Keywords: E coli