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Lebanon bans EU vegetable imports on E. coli fears

BEIRUT, June 3 – Lebanon imposed a ban on Friday on all vegetable imports from the European Union in response to an outbreak of E. coli poisoning that has killed at least 18 people, the agriculture minister said.

"We have decided to ban the import of all types of vegetables from Europe," Hussein Hajj Hassan told AFP.

He said the ban posed "no risk of shortages on the local market," as Lebanon could count on its own production and that of neighbouring Jordan and Syria.

Earlier this week, Russia banned all vegetable imports from the EU, sparking an angry response from the 27-nation bloc which warned the move was at odds with its bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

Like Russia, Lebanon is not currently a WTO member.

Officials in the northern city of Hamburg initially blamed organic Spanish cucumbers but tests this week showed that while they carried bacteria, it was not the strain responsible for the contamination.

Despite the false alarm over Spanish produce, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany\’s national disease centre, still advises consumers to avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, particularly in the north of the country.

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