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At least five people were hospitalized following a family gathering for a 70th birthday late last month south of Hannover, and investigators were probing the catering firm for possible leads to the outbreak’s source, the state ministry said.

European Union farmers say they have been losing up to euro417 million ($611 million) a week as ripe produce rots in fields and warehouses. The EU pledged Wednesday it would offer farmers compensation of up to euro210 million ($306 million) for the E. coli losses.

Russia and Saudi Arabia have issued a blanket ban on vegetable imports from the European Union.

Spanish farmers have been among the hardest hit, after authorities in Hamburg issued a warning that Spanish cucumbers could be the source of the outbreak. Further tests showed that while the Spanish vegetables did carry E. coli, it was not the strain behind the outbreak.

Spain’s Secretary of State for European Affairs, Diego Lopez Garrido, said the compensation being offered by the EU is not enough and blasted the Russian ban on all EU vegetables as “inappropriate.” Russia is a huge market for EU produce.


David Rising and Juergen Baetz in Berlin and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report