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E. coli fears prompt massive ground beef recall

Listeria germs occur naturally in soil and water and can be carried by animals, including those eaten by humans. Listeria is found in many raw foods, including meats and vegetables, soft cheese, hot dogs and other processed meats, and smoked seafood. The germs can be killed by cooking or pasteurization. istockphoto

(CBS) A massive government recall of ground beef over E. coli fears aims to stop the tainted product from becoming kids' school lunches.

Pictures: E. coli: 5 life-saving facts you must know

Palo Duro Meat of Amarillo, Texas is recalling 40,000 pounds of frozen ground beef because of fears of E. coli contamination. The frozen beef was produced on September 9, 2011, and was shipped in 40-lb. boxes to six Georgia school districts associated with the federally assisted National School Lunch Program, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced.

To date, the agency is not aware of the beef having been served to students.

The contamination was discovered following a positive lab test for the E. coli O157:H7. Officials say the problem may have resulted from a "sample tracking error," which allowed for a batch-in-question to be inadvertently shipped.

Young children, senior citizens, and those with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to becoming sick from the potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 bacterium.

All consumers should safely prepare their raw meat products -including fresh and frozen - and only consume ground beef that has been cooked to a temperature of 160° F, the FSIS says. The agency also says a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure food is safe to eat. People should also wash their hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry.

People who are concerned about an illness should contact their healthcare provider, or can contact Palo Duro Meat's, Trevor Caviness at (806) 372-5781.

How is E. coli infection caused? What are the symptoms? Click here for five life-saving facts about E. coli.

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