(CBS/AP) Ground beef sold by major grocery store chains has been recalled because it could be tainted with E. coli bacteria, which can cause potentially lethal infections.
Winn-Dixie Stores, Publix Super Markets, and Kroger announced the recalls mainly in the southeastern U.S., saying they stem from problems at the National Beef Packaging Co. of Dodge City, Kan.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Friday that National Beef was recalling more than 60,000 pounds of beef after tests by the Ohio Department of Agriculture found the bacteria.
The recalls affect products sold mainly in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee. The meat also was distributed to meat packing companies in Detroit and Indianapolis and to Wal-Mart operations in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wyoming - and may have been repackaged for consumers and sold nationwide.
USDA said there have been no reports of illnesses. A spokesman for National Beef said the company has never had a problem with E. coli. It is checking processes and procedures in an effort to find the cause and prevent it from happening again, the spokesman said.
At Kroger, the recalled products include ground chuck, ground beef patties, and meatballs and meat loaf made in the stores. Packages have "sell by" dates of July 29 through Aug. 12.
At Publix, the products include meatballs, meat loaf, ground chuck patties, stuffed peppers, seasoned salisbury steak and others with "sell by" dates of July 25 through Aug. 12. Winn-Dixie products include ground chuck and patties with "sell-by" label dates from July 31 to Aug. 12. The companies said consumers should return the beef to the store where it was purchased for a refund.
E. coli infection typically causes stomach cramps, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, and mild fever. Symptoms typically appear within four days, though sometimes the "incubation period" can last a week. Most people get better within seven days, but some develop a serious problem known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure.
Each year, illnesses caused by E. coli and other food-borne pathogens sicken about 48 million Americans, sending 128,000 to the hospital and killing 3,000, according to the CDC.
The American College of Family Physicians has more on E. coli infection.