Officials say measure will be in place until European officials inform Moscow of the disease's cause and how it is being spread
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 2 June 2011 09.41 BST
A farmer destroys iceberg lettuce on a field in Germany, where most of the E coli cases have occurred. Photograph: Carmen Jaspersen/EPA
Russia has extended its ban on vegetable imports to all of the EU in a bid to prevent a deadly European bacterial outbreak from spreading into the country.
Researchers are still unable to pinpoint the cause of the E coli outbreak that has hit Germany and other European countries, infecting 1,500 people and leaving 17 people dead.
Lyubov Voropayeva, a spokeswoman for the Russian Agency for the supervision of consumer rights, said on Thursday that the ban had been imposed with immediate effect.
The agency's chief, Gennady Onishchenko, told Russian news agencies that this "unpopular measure" would be in place until European officials inform Moscow of the cause of the disease and how it is being spread.
"How many more lives of European citizens does it take for European officials to tackle this problem?" he said to the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.
Russia banned fresh imports from Spain and Germany on Monday, warning of a possible extension of the sanction. No fatalities or infections have yet been reported in the country.
The outbreak has hit at least nine European states, but nearly all the people affected either live in Germany or recently travelled there. Two people who were taken ill are now in the US; both had recently travelled to Hamburg, Germany, where many of the infections occurred.
Medical authorities appeared no closer to discovering the source of the infection late on Wednesday. Germany's national health agency said that more than 1,530 people there had been affected by the E coli germ, including 470 suffering from a kidney failure complication that was previously considered extremely rare.
The outbreak is already seen as the third-largest involving E coli in recent years, and it may be the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly affected more than 12,000, and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak