China is now the world’s biggest exporter of strawberries, and those going to German schools were grown in China’s province of Shangdong. The Chinese strawberries were then transported by ship to Hamburg where, after a month at sea, the 44-ton order was delivered to Sodexo, a large food distributor that sells to German schools.
More than 11,000 youngsters attending schools and day cares were sickened throughout eastern German, with 32 requiring hospitalization. About 500 schools were involved in the outbreak.
A spokesman for a German consumer organization said Sodexo likely sought out the Chinese strawberries because they were cheap. German schools charge parents, not the federal government, for student meals. Meals typically cost families between 1.50 and 4 euros.
While the symptoms experienced by thousands of German children this fall were consistent with norovirus infection, authorities are not yet sure what contaminated the strawberries or at what point in the production chain the contamination occurred.