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Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) – A problem not specific to sustainable agriculture

Revised version of the FiBL background document on E. coli (EHEC) now available

There has been much speculation about the pathogenic EHEC bacterial strain that has tragically claimed the lives of more than 30 people so far in Germany. Meanwhile, the transmission pathways have for the most part been identified. The origin of the pathogen, however, is largely unclear.

In the context of the EHEC outbreak there have been debates as to whether certain agri-cultural methods (e.g. mixed holdings including both livestock and crop production, or the use of organic fertilizers for vegetable production) or certain sanitization methods for fresh consumable products (such as the use of organic acids, a mild treatment that leaves fewer residues) may increase the risk of infection.

This document does not address the current epidemiological situation of the outbreak in northern Germany. Its purpose is rather to provide background information on the ques-tion of how sustainable agricultural methods based on nutrient cycling deal with patho-gens that can be transmitted from animals to humans (zoonoses).

Further information

FiBL information


  • Urs Niggli, Director FiBL Switzerland
  • Jacqueline Forster-Zigerli, FibL Switzerland