Minister Daniel Bahr's comments came after health officials announced on Friday that they had traced the outbreak to sprouts from a farm in northern Germany. They also lifted a warning against eating cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, which initially had been suspected as possible culprits.
The E. coli outbreak, the world's deadliest, has sickened nearly 3,100 people
- most of them in Germany - and prompted many in Europe to shun vegetables over recent weeks.
"The (E. coli) wave is gradually abating - there is reason to hope the worst is now over," Bahr was quoted Saturday as telling the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. He added that a major new flare-up is "very unlikely."
However, "further deaths are not ruled out, as painful as that is," he added.
In Hamburg, one of the areas worst hit by the outbreak, customers at the city's Wandsbek market were back to buying cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce on Saturday.
With the end of the warning, "now they are coming back to the markets," said farmer Wolfgang Sannmann, who was selling vegetables and fruit. "And the consumer can buy again what he wants and what his appetite tells him."
Still, some customers remained wary despite officials' assurances that they had pinned down the source.
"I am still very cautious, because in the first place they said it's the cucumbers, and everyone stopped eating them, and now it's the sprouts," said real-estate agent Jessica Hemblen, 27. "I'm not sure whether this is it, or whether it's not going to be something different again."
"It can occur everywhere, and other things can come up too, so I am trying to get a good mixture (of vegetables) to lower the risk," said retiree Edith Karg.