Palma.—The acting Balearic Director General for Health and Consumer Affairs, Margalida Buades, said yesterday that, to their knowledge, no body in the Balearics has been affected by the allegedly suspect Spanish cucumbers which are being blamed for an outbreak of E. coli in various parts of Europe.

However, with local farmers fearing that the fall out could hit other exports, in particular the all important Sa Pobla potato exports to Germany and the UK, the Ministry has set up a commission to closely monitor the situation.

But, Buades said that the Balearic population has nothing to fear, nor to the farmers. “We are working in close cooperation with the national authorities to make sure all the measures are in place to control the situation,” she said.
No need to fear
Buades stressed that consumers here in the Balearics have nothing to worry about and should have no fears about buying cucumbers.
Whether her soothing words will work remains to be seen because the sale of local cucumbers has already fallen by 40 percent since the news broke of the possible connection between Spanish cucumbers and the outbreak of E. coli in Germany and other parts of Europe.

Spanish Agricultural Minister Rosa Aguilar yesterday called for a “European solution” and slammed Germany's handling of a deadly bacteria outbreak blamed on imported cucumbers.

The situation is “extremely serious” for the agriculture sector, Aguilar said upon her arrival at an informal meeting of EU agricultural ministers in Debrecen, eastern Hungary.

She estimated the loss caused to vegetable sales in Spain which came to a virtual halt to reach “more than 200 million euros a week”. “We need a European solution to a European problem,” she said. “Today, we have to present the issue as a common problem and have to ask for a compensation not only for Spanish producers but for all the European producers concerned by the situation.” Damage to tourism “We are disappointed by the way Germany handled the situation,” Aguilar said, citing in particular “very unfortunate” declarations of German public health authorities “which pointed at Spanish cucumbers and Spain as the origin of this infection without having reliable data.” The Secretary General for Tourism and Commerce, Joan Mesquida, admitted yesterday that the blockade of Spanish vegetable exports to Germany, Austria and other EU member states is doing “a lot of damage” to Spain's image in general and could make some people think twice about coming to Spain on holiday, he added.

He said that the reports circulating around the European press are “rumours and not based on the results of rigorous investigation” and this could cause serious damage to the Spanish economy. “Tourism figures to Spain are significantly better than last year and the summer bookings are very encouraging, a scare like this is the last thing we need,” Mesquida added.