(CBS News) Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef amid a seven-state salmonella outbreak that's sickened 33 people.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Sunday that the Wyalusing, Pa.-based company would recall packages of 85-percent lean ground beef that was produced on May 25, 2012, that were sold wholesale and for processing to retailers.
The FSIS warned that the beef was repackaged for sale in consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names at stores in the Northeast U.S. at the end of May and in early June. The products are no longer sold in stores given that the used-by-date has passed, but may potentially be in consumers' homes.
The retail distribution list of where the beef was sold can be found here; so far it only includes stores from the Hannaford Supermakets chain located in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
Hannaford Supermarkets, a New England-based chain of grocery stores, told the Associated Press it alerted its customers to check purchased ground beef for "use or sell by" dates between May 29 and June 16.
"Food borne illnesses are unfortunate and we are sorry for anyone who became sick from eating ground beef we may have produced," Cargill Beef president John Keating said in a company statement. "Ensuring our beef products are safe is our highest priority and an investigation is underway to determine the source of salmonella in the animals we purchased for harvest and any actions necessary to prevent this from recurring."
According to the FSIS, salmonella illnesses have been reported in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia and Vermont. Leftover ground beef tested during an investigation by the Vermont Department of Health was found positive for Salmonella Enteritidis.
Eating food contaminated with salmonella bacteria can cause infection, called salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The infections can be life-threatening for groups including infants, the elderly and persons with weak immune systems, including those with HIV infection or those undergoing chemotherapy. Common symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever within 12 to 72 hours of ingesting the bacteria. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea and vomiting that can last up to seven days. This strain of salmonella can be treated with antibiotics.
Government officials say cooking ground beef to 160 degree temperatures ensures harmful bacteria is killed. The USDA also advises people to wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry, in addition to washing cutting boards, dishes and utensils.
Cargill said it's contacting retailers to make certain they know which ground beef products are affected, and urges consumers with any opened or unopened packages affected by the recalls to return them to the point of purchase. Consumers with questions can contact Cargill's consumer relations toll free telephone number (1-888-812-1646).