The cucumber crisis: the papers don’t know but everybody else does

Ironically, with komkommertijd (the silly season) upon us, the komkommer, or cucumber, has been making headlines and it isn’t at all silly.

Scientists are still searching for the source of the recent E. coli outbreak in Germany and in the absence of any real information the papers have had to make do: explaining the workings of the bug and telling people to wash their veg. And totting up the victims of course, 14 people have died at the last count.
Meanwhile the internet forums of some of the same papers where facts don’t count for all that much have been buzzing with all kinds (conspiracy) theories, prejudices and sweeping statements.
Telegraaf readers have suggested that terrorists might be behind the ‘attack’ on the Western food supply, while others are scoring points against organic farming which ‘as everybody knows’ uses human faeces for fertiliser. Its article on Tuesday headlined ‘Cucumber war with Germany’ is bound to generate some good old fashioned Dutch – German finger pointing among forum writers, and is accompanied by a photograph of a family standing up for the Dutch cucumber by buying one in a supermarket.
In Der Zeit one German reader pooh poohs the advice to wash the vegetables as laughably inadequate and puts forward the theory that what we are dealing with is a government cover up involving contaminated drinking water in Northern Germany where farmers have been putting slurry on a draught ridden sandy soil.
Could it be true? Who knows. Meanwhile, fridge loads of cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and aubergines (which also suddenly appeared in the list) have found their way to the bin.
‘La crisis de los pepinos’ as the Spanish call it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The country is on its knees economically and the German decision to ban Spanish cucumbers is causing the Andalusian cucumber growers ‘incalculable damage’, write the Spanish papers. The damage could be as high as ‘200 million a week’ and the government wants compensation.
One forum writer on El País, says that he knows for a fact that the Germans never wash their salads while another swears that he’s never seen an unpeeled cucumber in all his time in Germany (20 years). Another recalls the German dioxin scandal of 2011 in which 3000 tonnes of animal feed was found to be infected.
Here, Trouw, whose readership have curiously little to say about the E.coli scare, reports that some Dutch companies depend on export to Germany for 70 to 80 percent of their produce. Junior agriculture Henk Bleker is looking for European support for the growers, it writes. The economic impact of the cucumber crisis at least can be measured.

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