Fresh vegetables imported from Europe for hotels and tourist resorts will be sent to the Medical Research Institute (MRI) for laboratory tests in the aftermath of the E-coli outbreak in Europe, a senior official of the Health Ministry said.
“Imported fresh vegetables, fruits and potatoes were not sample tested before. The Ministry is holding discussions with the MRI on the possibility of sample testing fresh vegetables especially those imported from Europe,” he said.
The move came after the mysterious E-coli bacteria killed 31 people with about 3000 persons falling sick in Europe. The World Health Organization stated three cases were also reported from the United States.
Germany's public health body, Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has revealed that bean sprouts produced at a farm in North Germany might be the source for the bacteria which is reported to be resistant to anti-biotics.
Asparagus, bamboo shoot, bell pepper, bean sprouts, button mushrooms, broccoli, baby corn and Chinese cabbage are among the vegetables imported to Sri Lanka.
With many countries halting the import of vegetables, warnings were issued on consuming lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber from Europe while the national carrier SriLankan announced that fresh vegetables would be out from menus on flights flying out of Europe.
“Out of these vegetables only a small quantity is imported from Europe. Once the testing is finalized, Customs will be informed to forward samples of fresh vegetables to the Food and Drug Inspector at the Customs terminal. These will be sent to the MRI for tests. It will be a speedy process as fresh vegetables are involved,” the ministry offical said.
He said random tests would be carried out on canned food items. “It has been compulsory to test canned fish but there were no such tests on canned vegetables. Though canned vegetables are pre-cooked and free of bacteria there are instances of bacterial infection. In the future canned vegetables too will be tested thoroughly,” he said.