Cool as a cucumber despite fatal E coli scare in Europe

Outbreak: A sample of E coli - 1,000 people are ill on the continent.
Outbreak: A sample of E coli - 1,000 people are ill on the continent.

CUCUMBERS are still very much on the menu on Sheffield’s fruit and veg stalls - as shoppers carry on buying the vegetable despite it being linked to a potentially fatal bug spreading across Europe.

More than 1,000 people on the continent are ill from viruses rumoured to be carried in contaminated cucumbers, sparking one of the largest ever scares in fresh food produce.

The outbreak has been put down to E coli, as well as a syndrome which causes life-threatening kidney problems, with the first cases being reported in Germany.

But in Castle Market in Sheffield city centre, traders were still offering cucumbers for sale - albeit mostly of the home-grown variety.

Ian Bingham, aged 43, who runs the Bingham and Brown fruit and vegetable stall, told The Star he hasn’t seen any dip in trade since the scare began.

“It’s just made us more aware,” he said. “We’ve put an extra sign on the stall saying our cucumbers are English. I don’t think it will affect us. It scared people at the beginning, but it will pass, I’m sure.”

Ian, who lives in Sothall and has worked on his family’s store for 27 years, said he won’t be selling Spanish cucumbers after the country’s produce was blamed for starting the virus outbreak.

“We’ll normally buy Spanish at certain times of the year, but we certainly won’t in the near future,” he said. “We try and have as much English gear as we can.”

Shopper Charles Moxon, 76, from Bolton-on-Dearne, said he wouldn’t be put off buying cucumbers.

“There’s no problem with cucumbers from this country by the sounds of it,” he said, adding some reports have brought leaf lettuce and tomatoes into the frame as well.

“It doesn’t sound like they know what it was in, they’re going all over the place with it. It’s a mystery.”

An 84-year-old customer, who didn’t want to be named, happily bought half a cucumber for her summer salad - then admitted she’d “completely forgotten” about the virus scare.

“I don’t think I’m at risk,” she added. “The world is a big place. When you think of the numbers of people who have got this, it’s like dropping a pea in the ocean. They’re creating a panic about it.”

Cucumbers were selling at the bargain price of three for £1 at Stuart McClarnan’s stall, Stuart’s Fruit and Veg.

Stuart, 38, said: “The confidence seems to be there, they are selling. People are asking about it, but because we’re selling English cucumbers we’re not affected by it. They’re grown in Hull.

“We won’t touch Spanish cucumbers now. Why would I buy Spanish anyway when the English are cheap enough?”

Ian Cull, 31, who runs the Fruit Fayre stall, said the virus scare hasn’t affected his sales of cucumber, but said the Spanish variety is going to waste at his suppliers.

“There’s pallets in the wholesale of foreign cucumbers that people won’t buy,” he said. “I think it’s sad to leave something behind straight away rather than finding out exactly what the problem is.”

Elsewhere, Marks and Spencers on Fargate were displaying a tray piled high with British cucumbers, and lunchtime shoppers were snapping up wild red salmon sandwiches - with slices of cucumber.