beansprouts.jpgDespite reports that German officials had finally identified the source of the country’s deadly E. coli outbreak as sprouts from Gaertnerhof organic farm in the northern German village of Bienenbuettel, latest reports now seem to indicate that sprouts might not be the culprit. According to the Lower-Saxony state agriculture ministry, 23 of 40 samples from the sprout farm suspected of being behind the outbreak have tested negative for the outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria. However, test results are still pending for the remaining samples.

Representatives from the ministry stated, “The search for the outbreak’s cause is very difficult as several weeks have passed since its suspected start.” Officials added, “A conclusion of the investigations and a clarification of the contamination’s origin is not expected in the short term.”

In the meantime, consumers in Germany and throughout Europe continue to worry about their health and safety in light of the increasing number of illnesses and fatalities. So far the outbreak has caused 2,243 illnesses and taken 22 lives. In addition, 627 people have developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection.

German authorities issued a statement on Sunday warning consumers to avoid eating sprouts and maintained the warning against eating tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce.