RPT-11,000 German schoolchildren probably laid low by strawberries

(Repeats to wider addresses, with no changes to text)

BERLIN, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Germany's biggest outbreak of foodpoisoning, in which more than 11,000 schoolchildren have beenlaid low by diarrhoea and vomiting, is "very likely" to havebeen caused by a batch of frozen strawberries, authorities saidon Friday.

Children in almost 500 schools and daycare centres acrosseastern Germany that received food from a subcontractor of thecatering firm Sodexo have been affected, and at least 32 havebeen treated in hospital.

The Robert Koch Institute, which advises the German HealthMinistry on infectious diseases, said it had found a "strong andstatistically significant link" between the outbreak and"consumption of products made from a batch of frozenstrawberries".

Many of the patients were found to be infected withnoroviruses, it said in a joint statement with a task force setup by the government and affected states.

Sodexo announced that it planned to compensatevictims and said further details would be announced in the nextfew days.

In a statement, it apologised to the children and theirfamilies for "an extremely regrettable one-off incident" andsaid it would select its suppliers "even more rigorously" infuture.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Thomas Seythal; Editing byKevin Liffey)

((MichelleHannah.Martin@thomsonreuters.com)(+49 30 2888 5223))