European sprouted seed suppliers are working together to explore whether they can take legal action over the lack of EU compensation made available to their industry following the E.coli crisis.

Tentative talks have started to determine if it is possible for suppliers to seek financial redress through the European courts system, with some even suggesting a case could be brought with the European Court of Justice.

The move comes after the EC had made 230m in compensation available to vegetable and salad growers but not the sprouted seed sector.

Sprouted seed sales nosedived after they were implicated in E.coli outbreaks in Germany and France this summer. Many retailers took ready-to-eat products off shelves, resulting in significant financial losses to suppliers. One UK sprouted seed company said it was "extremely unfair" that no compensation had been offered. The industry had suffered great reputational damage, the supplier said, meaning a well-funded PR campaign would be necessary to win back consumer confidence. "We're now working with other suppliers to explore what can be done through the European courts," the supplier said.

It is not clear at this stage on exactly what grounds legal action could be brought, or against whom. But the supplier said it could be worthwhile bringing action if only to highlight the plight of the sprouted seed industry.

Some suppliers are understood to be in the process of contacting their national governments to win political backing for a possible legal campaign.

A spokesman for the Commission said no member state had to date officially requested EU support for sprout growers but added that the difficulties the sector faced had been raised at EU level.

However, he said that as not all sprouts were classed under the EU's fruit and vegetable list, supporting them was difficult from a legal point of view. "EU support (or not) for sprouts seems rather a political issue," he added.