The German E. coli outbreak which has now claimed 48 lives has been linked with Egyptian fenugreek seeds.

The European Food Safety Authority and the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said that a risk assessment report said the outbreak, and a smaller E. coli issue around Bordeaux, France, blamed the seed, used as a herb or spice.

In a joint statement, the bodies said: “The tracing back is progressing and has thus far shown that fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt either in 2009 and/or 2010 are implicated in both outbreaks.”

Scientists have conceded that they may never discover the definite cause of the outbreak.

Thomson & Morgan, a British seed supplier, had been cited as a possible source for the outbreak in France, but they have been cleared by health authorities.

The two cases have infected more than 4,000 people.