The E. coli death toll is now at least 30, including one woman in Sweden who had recently returned from Germany. More than 2800 people were also ill in at least 14 countries with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) poisoning, which in severe cases can lead to renal failure.
Suddenly, Germany, which routinely chides its neighbors for economic mismanagement and other sins is finding itself uncomfortably on the defensive. Germany is now under pressure to explain a series of missteps that turned a public-health scandal into a political debacle and made the country that gave us the term “schadenfreude” a victim of it. The term of course means pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. And Germany is now on the receiving end of that!
Berlin’s bumbling response has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses for farmers across Europe and sparked a war of words between leaders. This started with Germany’s rush to blame the Spanish cucumber and then Dutch produce followed by Portugal and Italy. Many in Europe have already decided on the real villain of this story: the German government. In addition to the blame game, the German government was slow to determine the cause, with conflicting accounts coming from different officials. The confusion was perhaps not too surprising given that 32 different state and federal agencies get involved when there are public-health scares.