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HelloFresh ground beef may be contaminated with E. coli, USDA warns

Ground beef shipped to customers in HelloFresh meal kits in July may be contaminated with E. coli, food safety officials warned.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Saturday said meat produced at a specific manufacturing location appears to have caused multiple illnesses. The strain detected, O157:H7, causes severe intestinal infection in humans.

Customers whose freezers contain HelloFresh ground beef shipped from July 2 to 21 should throw the meat away, the USDA said. The agency said it did not request a recall because the kits are no longer available to buy.

The 85-percent-lean ground beef came in 10-ounce plastic vacuum-sealed packages with “EST.46841” printed on them. The sides of the packages also say “EST#46841 L1 22 155” or “EST#46841 L5 22 155.”

HelloFresh, a company based in Germany, said the USDA’s warning “affects a very small portion of HelloFresh customers in the US” who received beef from a particular supplier.

“The USDA issued a public health alert out of an abundance of caution,” the company said in a statement. “We are closely partnering with the USDA and the supplier in question.”

What to know about E. coli symptoms and how to prevent infection

Ground beef is a common cause of E. coli transmission. About 120,000 pounds of ground beef were recalled in April for that reason. In 2019, E. coli in ground beef was suspected to have infected at least 109 people in six states.

Other foods have also transmitted E. coli, which is short for Escherichia coli. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in August of a “fast-moving” outbreak in Michigan and Ohio that officials later said may have been linked to romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants.

Late last year, 10 people got sick, and one person died in an outbreak connected to packaged salads. Another outbreak was linked to baby spinach.

Some strains of E. coli, a group of bacteria, are harmless. Others can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia and respiratory infections. A person can become infected with E. coli by swallowing an often-invisible amount of animal or human feces in contaminated food or water.

Symptoms include diarrhea, excessive vomiting, dehydration, stomach cramps and bloody stool, according to the CDC. About 265,000 people in the United States become sick from E. coli each year, and roughly 30 people die of it.

Federal food safety officials urge people to eat ground beef only if it has been cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and to confirm that temperature with a food thermometer. If the meat is stored in a refrigerator, it should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and used within a day or two.

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