Paris - Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) was investigating possible links between vegetable seeds supplied by a British company and an outbreak of E coli in south-west France, the BBC reported on Saturday.

French authorities have identified Thompson & Morgan, a British mail order seed and plant company, as being the supplier of seeds from which rocket, fenugreek and mustard vegetable sprouts were grown and served at a party at a creche near Bordeaux.

Six of the 10 adults affected by the E coli outbreak ate the sprouts, authorities in the region have said.

Two of the patients are said to have type 0104 enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC) - the strain that has killed 39 people -primarily in Germany - since May.

No link had been established with the German outbreak, which came from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm.

Frederic Lefebvre, French Secretary of State for Consumer Affairs, on Friday demanded that sales of the British seeds be immediately suspended.

Laboratory tests are being carried out to determine whether the vegetable sprouts caused the outbreak.

Ipswich-based Thomson & Morgan told the BBC in a statement it was “highly unlikely” the seeds were responsible.

The company had sold “thousands of packets and have had no reported problems.” It was more likely that “the way that they were used and handled” had caused the contamination.

The FSA said it had no reported cases of food poisoning in Britain linked with the French outbreak and has asked French authorities for more information.

Seven people required hospital treatment for haemorrhagic diarrhoea. Of the five still in hospital Saturday, one 78-year-old woman's condition had deteriorated Saturday and was described as “worrisome” by the regional health authority.

The outbreak comes days after a E coli outbreak in a group of children in the northern city of Lille.

That outbreak was caused by frozen beef burgers produced in France and sold by German supermarket chain Lidl. - Sapa-dpa