Children in France get E. coli from German burgers

LILLE, France, June 16, 2011 (AFP) - Six children were hospitalised in France with E. coli infections after eating meat that manufacturers said came from Germany, where a separate outbreak of the bacteria has killed 38 people.

The children, the youngest of whom is 20 months old, had eaten defrosted hamburgers made by the French company SEB which said the meat was taken from animals slaughtered in Germany and processed in France.

"They are in a serious but not worrying state. Their lives are not at all in danger," a spokesman for the Regional Health Agency (ARS) in Lille, northern France, where the children were hospitalised on Wednesday, told AFP.

The "Steak Country" burgers were bought in French branches of German supermarket Lidl. SEB said it had recalled them and Lidl said it had removed them from its shelves in France.

AFP - A picture taken on June 16, 2011 in the northern French town of Lille, shows the logo of discount supermarket LIDL.

Health authorities said the infection was a rare strain of the E. coli bacteria and was not linked to the similar outbreak in Germany, though SEB said the meat was sourced there.

"The suspect meat come from Germany. It was slaughtered there before being imported to France by our company," Guy Lamorlette, chief executive of SEB, told AFP.

The ARS official said the children had suffered from bloody diarrhoea, which also struck victims of the outbreak in Germany which has been blamed on infected vegetable sprouts.

The French infections "have no link at present with the recent epidemic in Germany," the official added, however.

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