Russia will give the European Commission a full explanation for its ban on the import of fresh vegetables from the European Union, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday.
Russia on Thursday banned the import of fresh vegetables from the 27-nation bloc because of an outbreak of a highly virulent strain of the E. coli bacteria that has resulted in at least 10 deaths.
"Of course, nobody wants to get sick, and...this is a natural protective measure," Lukashevich said.
"I know that the agriculture commissioner sent a letter," he added. "An explanation will be given in terms of international practice in such cases. The precedent is very serious. Naturally, any state would protect its market so that it doesn't receive such 'gifts.'"
The European Commission received notification of the ban earlier on Thursday, Health Affairs spokesman Frederic Vincent said.
The head of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection, Paola Testori Coggi, was expected to demand an explanation for the ban from the Russian authorities, he said.
Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) will monitor vegetable prices to prevent them from skyrocketing in the wake of the ban, FAS head Igor Artemyev said on Thursday.
At least 1,200 people in northern Germany have been affected by an Escherichia coli outbreak, initially suspected to be caused by cucumbers imported from Spain. The European Commission has reported 10 deaths in nine countries, whereas European news agencies place the death toll at 17.
Madrid said it would take legal action for what it said were groundless statements last week by Germany pointing to Spain as the supplier of the tainted cucumbers. The German authorities admitted on Tuesday that more tests on cucumbers revealed that they did not carry the dangerous bacteria.
Spain is to seek compensation for the country's fruit and vegetable exporters, who have reportedly lost more than 200 million euro ($290 million).
E. coli bacteria are common and live in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, but some strains can cause serious illness. An E. coli complication, hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), can lead to a stroke, seizures and fatal kidney disorders.
MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti)
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