Russia bans some Egyptian seeds, says official

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MOSCOW: Russia on Wednesday banned certain Egyptian seeds, including fenugreek, after a European food agency linked them to the deadly E. coli outbreaks in Germany and France.

Russia’ consumer protection watchdog chief Gennady Onishchenko said the ban applied to the seeds as well as certain soy products, mustard and certain other vegetable seeds.

However Egypt’s ministry of agriculture has repeatedly denied that fenugreek seeds exported to Europe had caused the E.coli outbreak.

The head of Egypt’s Central Administration of Agricultural Quarantine, Ali Suleiman, said claims by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that Egyptian fenugreek seeds exported in 2009 and 2010 may have been implicated in the outbreak were "completely untrue."

"The presence of this bacteria in Egypt has not been proven at all, and it has not been recorded," Suleiman told the official MENA news agency.

He said the Egyptian company that exported the seeds in 2009 has stressed in a letter that it had exported the fenugreek to Holland and not to Germany, Britain or France. The seeds were subjected to four different agricultural quarantines before reaching their final destination and no trace of the bacteria was found, said the Egyptian agriculture ministry.

"Until special (new) instructions, we are also introducing a ban on the import and sale in our country of certain types of Egyptian products," Interfax quoted Onishchenko as saying.

Russia last week resumed vegetable imports from four European Union countries after imposing a nearly month-long ban because of the deadly bacterial strain.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) earlier Wednesday had linked a batch of Egyptian fenugreek seeds to outbreaks in France and Germany and then reported the findings to Moscow.

Onishchenko said the report’s conclusions could help repair trust between the two sides.

"We welcome the fact that the European Commission has tackled this with such dedication and has for the first time officially voiced its version of events," Onishchenko was quoted as saying.



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