FORT LEE, Va. ― Military commissaries in Europe are not selling or receiving lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from any European sources until further notice, according to a directive from the U.S. Army’s European Regional Veterinary Command.
The medical command delivered its directive in the face of the current E. coli outbreak in Germany. The outbreak is attributed to a rare strain, a mutant E. coli that has killed 18 people and sickened more than 1,500 people, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication.
Germany is the country hit hardest by this outbreak.Researchers have thus far been unable to pinpoint the cause of the illness, though experts are investigating possible links to specific varieties of produce, mainly focusing on cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce.
U.S. Public Health Command Region Europe officials are advising consumers that cleaning raw vegetables may not guarantee they are free of infection.
Medical officials said “there is a higher risk of illness associated with eating raw vegetables.”
Experts are recommending that all vegetables procured in Europe be cooked and not eaten raw until the source of this outbreak is identified. Fruits are not affected by this outbreak.
For commissary customers in Europe, the ban on local produce will affect the availability of product, said Chris Wicker, the public health adviser for the Defense Commissary Agency’s health and safety directorate.
“The European stores do procure produce from locally approved sources,” he said. “DeCA Europe is looking into alternative sources, including the possibility of airlifting additional produce from the continental United States to augment our commissaries in Europe. A disruption in supplies will be inevitable, but we are trying to minimize the adverse impact to our customers as much as possible.”
For more information on the outbreak, visit www.rki.de/cln_169/nn_217400/EN/Home/results__stec.html.
For the latest food-safety alerts and product recalls affecting military commissaries, visit www.commissaries.com and click on the “Stay Informed” box on the front page. For general food-safety information, visit DeCA’s official website, choose the “News & Info” tab and select “Food Safety” from the drop-down box.
(Courtesy of the Defense Commissary Agency Office of Communication)