HAMBURG, Germany -- Germany's health minister says he's hopeful that the worst of an E. coli outbreak blamed on sprouts is over -- but he is warning that the number of deaths, now at 33, may still increase.
Minister Daniel Bahr's comments came after health officials announced on Friday that they had traced the outbreak to sprouts from a farm in northern Germany. They also lifted a warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, which had been suspected as possible culprits.
The E. coli outbreak, the world's deadliest, has sickened nearly 3,100 people -- most of them in Germany -- and prompted many in Europe to shun vegetables over recent weeks.
"The [E. coli] wave is gradually abating -- there is reason to hope the worst is now over," Bahr was quoted Saturday as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. He added that a major new flare-up is "very unlikely."
However, "further deaths are not ruled out, as painful as that is," he added.
In Hamburg, one of the areas worst hit by the outbreak, customers at the city's Wandsbek market were back to buying cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on Saturday.
Still, some customers remained wary despite officials' assurances that they had pinned down the source.
Health officials say they tracked the bacteria's path from hospital patients struggling with diarrhea and kidney failure, to restaurants where they had dined, to specific meals and ingredients they ate, and finally back to a single farm.