BRUSSELS — Europeans traded blame yesterday over the source of a mysterious bacterial outbreak that has killed 14 people and sickened hundreds across the continent and forced Russia to ban imports of some fresh vegetables from Spain and Germany out of fear they could be contaminated.
Austrian authorities sent inspectors to supermarkets to make sure suspect Spanish vegetables have been taken off shelves, while in Italy the country’s paramilitary Carabinieri has been on the lookout since Saturday for suspected contaminated imports from Spain, the Netherlands, and other European countries.
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a European Union spokeswoman, said German authorities had identified cucumbers from the Spanish cities of Almeria and Malaga as possible sources of contamination and that a third suspect batch, originating either in the Netherlands or in Denmark and traded in Germany, is also under investigation.
In Germany, which has recorded the most infections and all known deaths, officials said they know that at least some Spanish cucumbers tainted with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli have carried the bacteria, although they are unable to determine the source.
Spain went on the defensive, saying there was no proof that the E. coli outbreak has been caused by Spanish vegetables.