Officials from the Ministries of Health and Agriculture are investigating whether a shipment of basil grown in Israel is responsible for several cases of salmonella poisoning in Europe.
On Monday the ministry received reports of the discovery of the senfenberg strain of salmonella infecting several dozen people in England, Scotland, Denmark and Holland within the space of a few months. An epidemiological inquiry led researchers abroad to suspect that the source of the poisoning was basil originating in Israel.
Following the report the Ministry of Health located all Israeli exporters who sent basil shipments to the locations in question during the estimated time window and narrowed the investigation to three exporters.
Agricultural officials are currently examining soil and product samples from all three and the results are expected on Wednesday. Health officials have already finished testing the irrigation water for the fields in question and no abnormalities were found.
"The salmonella bacteria, along with an additional bacteria called Shigella, is one of the leading causes of intestinal diseases," said Dr. Alex Levinthal, head of the ministry's public health department. Dr. Levinthal said he seriously doubted that the alleged strain of salmonella would have caused such serious morbidity.
Professor Manfred Green, the director of Israel's Center for Disease Control, told Ynet that "there is absolutely no health risk to the Israeli public."
Salmonella is a bacterium that infects the intestinal system and is usually found in poultry, eggs, cheese and contaminated water as well as contact with bodily waste. Patients suffer from diarrhea for several days and usually receive no special medical treatment as the disease passes on its own after a short period of time.