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Chinese Strawberries Sickened Thousands of German Students

Those frozen strawberries that were “very likely” the cause of food poisoning that sickened more than 11,000 German schoolchildren were very certainly grown in China.

China is now the world’s biggest exporter of strawberries, and those going to German schools were grown in China’s province of Shangdong. The Chinese strawberries were then transported by ship to Hamburg where, after a month at sea, the 44-ton order was delivered to Sodexo, a large food distributor that sells to German schools.

More than 11,000 youngsters attending schools and day cares were sickened throughout eastern German, with 32 requiring hospitalization. About 500 schools were involved in the outbreak.

A spokesman for a German consumer organization said Sodexo likely sought out the Chinese strawberries because they were cheap. German schools charge parents, not the federal government, for student meals. Meals typically cost families between 1.50 and 4 euros.

While the symptoms experienced by thousands of German children this fall were consistent with norovirus infection, authorities are not yet sure what contaminated the strawberries or at what point in the production chain the contamination occurred.

© Food Safety News
  • Carlo Silvestri

    Ah, Chinese food safety . . . AGAIN!  When will the world learn?  Cheap doesn’t mean safe.  Cheap doesn’t mean edible.  Cheap means cheap.  It takes the dedication of resources to help ensure food safety and it’s obvious that many of the Chinese suppliers are less than willing to dedicate these resources.  After all, it’s the bottom line of the supplier and the distributor that seems to count, not the health & welfare of those who consume the product.

  • Milk

    What does “ “very likely”  mean?

  • Barbara Griffith

    The US imports millions of pounds of pond raised fish that are sold to super markets and consumers eat it not knowing where or how it is raised.  After I saw photos of how the fish were raised and harvested from the nasty looking ponds I never bought any food from china ever.  I check labels on cans and if I can’t find a USDA stamp anywhere I contact the company to find out where it was grown and packed.  I’m sure Germany could find any number of suppliers to buy strawberries from other than China. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJ6FBKACCM6A7OKABCDI6744KI yahoo-JJ6FBKACCM6A7OKABCDI6744KI

    BEWARE everyone, I have even seen frozen chinese fruits and vegetables being sold here in the US under an organic label.  I bet you can’t guess where I saw them being sold… it was at WHOLE FOODS !!!  Still think it’s worth it to blow your “whole pay check” at Whole Foods???

  • David Ingram

    China is not the problem.  Strawberries are among those commodities that require harvesting by hand – they are fragile and quality decays quickly after harvesting.    Berries destined for the frozen market are harvested by hand, and also sliced by hand in the field before heading to the quick freeze system.    All this ‘handling’ would predispose any fruit to a variety of foodborne pathogens, not the least of which is Norovirus.  Slicing by hand is also dangerous for the harvester.  Strawberries are particularly susceptible to this type of contamination and are, of course, often eaten raw.   We need to develop a mechanical harvesting and slicing system to eliminate human contact with strawberries – only then will we be able to minimize exposure to foodborne pathogens !

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raymond-James/100000892166766 Raymond James

    China  why am I not surprised?