Publix beef recall: Florida consumers urged to dump meat that may carry E. coli

Publix Super Markets is recalling an "undetermined" amount of beef possibly contaminated with E. coli after 18 people were reportedly sickened, predominately in Florida, federal regulators say.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Safety Inspection Service said the Florida grocery chain issued a voluntary recall of ground chuck product sold in 18 Florida counties. 

The agency said it was notified of 18 cases, predominantly from Florida, of people getting sick after consuming meat bought at Publix, with raw ground chuck the probable source of the reported illnesses.

Publix, based in Lakeland, Florida, is the state's largest private employer, and operates nearly 1,200 stores in Florida and six other states. It said it was still trying to determine the source of the tainted meat. 

"We urge our customers to make sure they no longer have ground chuck products purchased in the affected Florida counties from June 25 through July 31 in their freezers," a Publix spokesperson said in a statement. "Customers should dispose of the product or bring it in for a full refund."

The recall involves ground chuck, ground chuck burgers, gourmet and seasoned burgers, meatballs, sliders, and stuffed peppers in the following 24 Florida counties: Brevard, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter and Volusia.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps, with the symptoms typically occurring two to eight days after exposure. Most people recover in a week, but some develop a type of kidney failure that is most common among older adults and children under five.

Earlier this week, Cargill recalled more than 25,000 pounds of beef possibly contaminated with e. coli.