Saudi Arabia has temporarily stopped importing vegetables from European countries to prevent entry of agricultural products contaminated by the E. coli virus.
Saudi Minister of Agriculture Fahd Balghunaim said the import ban comes into effect Wednesday, adding that it would continue until the source of the virus becomes clear.
Assistant Deputy Minister for Livestock Affairs Jabir Al-Shahri said the ban was imposed on the basis of information received from the EU, WHO and the European Center for Disease Control.
In a previous statement Balghunaim confirmed that E. coli infected cucumbers that appeared last week in European countries have not entered the Kingdom. "Due to strict measures taken at the ports no infected produce has been allowed to pass into the Saudi market," Balghunaim said, adding that EU countries are in no way a source for imported produce in the Kingdom. The Saudi daily (Arab News) quoted the minister as saying that Saudi Arabia produces 85 percent of cucumbers in the market, with imports of other vegetables mainly from Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.
Nonetheless, Balghunaim stressed that it is the responsibility of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) to prevent the entry of food products with questionable safety.