FRIDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials sought Friday to reassure Americans that there is little chance the deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria affecting Germany and other European countries will have any significant impact here.
"This outbreak has not affected the U.S.," David Elder, director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Regional Operations, said during a Friday afternoon news conference.
The source of the outbreak in Europe -- which has been blamed for 18 deaths -- remains unknown, but produce is a likely suspect, health officials said.
"Produce remains safe and there is no reason for Americans to alter where they shop, what they buy, what they eat," he added. "The U.S. food supply is not in jeopardy."
As a precaution, the FDA has taken the step of detaining any shipments of tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers arriving from Germany and Spain. Samples from these shipments will be tested for E. coli before being released into the U.S. market, Elder said.
"Any products found to be contaminated will be refused admission into the U.S. and any future shipments will be detained upon entry," he said.
Elder noted that produce from Europe makes up less than 0.2 percent of all produce imported into the United States, and very little of that European produce comes into the country this time of the year.
Chris Braden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Waterborne and Environmental Diseases division, said that "the strain of E. coli causing illness in Europe is very rare, and [the] CDC is not aware of any confirmed cases of this infection ever reported in the United States."
To date there have been four suspected cases of infection in the United States, Braden said, and "in each case the suspected case has been identified as persons who recently traveled to Hamburg, Germany."
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