Russia will keep a ban on vegetable imports from the EU until Europe names the cause of the fatal bacteria that has killed 20 people in Europe, the sanitary watchdog said on Saturday.
On Thursday, Russia banned vegetable imports from the 27-nation bloc following an outbreak of a highly virulent strain of the E. coli bacteria that has caused at least 20 deaths. The EU protested against the ban and requested its immediate withdrawal.
“When they tell us it’s not vegetables, then we will lift the ban,” said Gennady Onishchenko, the head of the sanitary watchdog.
He denied accusations that Russia had made a hasty decision to impose the ban.
“We are obviously facing a totally new phenomenon,” he said. “This strain… has turned out to be highly toxigenic.”
He said the strain had been identified in 1992 but this time it has taken on enormous scale by infecting 2,000 people and killing about 20. It has spread across 11 European countries and is resistant to antibiotics – these are the reasons why Russia introduced the ban, he added.
Onishchenko also said that the bacteria mostly affected economically active population of Europe, with 61% of them being women rather than children or the elderly.
BLAGOVESHCHENSK, June 4 (RIA Novosti)