HAMBURG, Germany - The terrifying E. coli outbreak in Europe appears to have been caused by vegetable sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany, an agriculture official said yesterday as the toll climbed to at least 22 dead and more than 2,200 sickened.

Preliminary tests found that bean sprouts and other sprout varieties from the farm in the Uelzen area, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, could be traced to infections in five German states, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann said.

Many restaurants involved in what is now the deadliest known E. coli outbreak in modern history had received deliveries of the sprouts, which are often used in salads, Lindemann spokesman Gert Hahne said.

- Associated Press