In the latest food scare in the United States seven brands of frozen ground beef have been recalled because it is feared some of it may be contaminated with E. coli bacteria.
The beef products, some 107,943 pounds of it, were produced by the California company Richwood Meat based in Merced, on April 28, 2006, and was distributed to retail outlets in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) say the meat was contaminated by the O157:H7 strain of E. coli and was discovered by sampling undertaken by the California Department of Health Services during an investigation.
The recalled products carry the number "EST. 8264" inside the USDA mark of inspection and a date code of 118-6 or 4/28/06.
E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration; it usually causes little or no fever and the illness as a rule resolves itself in five to 10 days.
Health officials however caution that the bacteria can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, sudden short-term kidney failure in children, and lead to kidney failure, and children, the elderly and people with poor immune systems are particularly at risk.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service says the meat patties were distributed to institutional food services, food distributors, discount grocers and some retail stores including Winco and Vons.
Three confirmed cases and two possible cases have been reported to Napa County Public Health amongst children since April 3rd after the bacteria was found in the stool sample of a 9-year-old.
All the children have all fully recovered and tests are being conducted to confirm the illness was caused by the beef.
Consumers are advised to check whether they have the products in their freezers and if that is the case, to destroy them or take them back to the place of purchase.
The USDA has released a list of companies who use Richwood Meat Company ground beef patties they include Fireriver Classic, Ritz Food, Chef's Pride, Blackwood Farms, Golbon, and California Pacific Associated.
Late last week a Pennsylvania beef firm also recalled around 259,230 pounds of beef products due to possible contamination with E. coli.