ST. PAUL PARK (AP) -- Simek's Inc. voluntarily recalled three varieties of frozen ground beef patties Wednesday because they might be contaminated with E. coli bacteria, which can cause severe flu-like symptoms.
At least three people who ate the patties in the past month became ill, and each tested positive for E. coli, but state health department officials said other consumers may have become ill without realizing the cause.
E. coli can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, headache and nausea. The very young, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to food-borne illness. The bacteria can be killed by cooking meat to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.
The recall only includes products with lot numbers that begin with the four digits 0162, which amount to a third of the patties Simek's has sold since July.
The recalled items involve:
--Simek's one-third pound ground beef patties sold in six-pound boxes.
--Simek's two-pound bags of 91 percent lean ground beef patties.
--Simek's 10-pound boxes of quarter-pound ground beef patties.
They were sold at 13 Twin Cities-area Simek's stores and nine grocery stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin: Kowalski's in Woodbury, White Bear Lake and St. Paul; Rainbow Foods in Woodbury, Oakdale and Cottage Grove; Cub Foods in White Bear Lake; Evan's Central Market in Detroit Lakes; and Quillin's in La Crosse, Wis.
Simek's officials said they immediately pulled 30,000 pounds of the patties from their stores when they learned of the problem.
"It was on the shelves as late as yesterday, but we did pull it off within an hour," spokesman Paul Novara said. "The product has been for sale in the stores since about early July, so it's been about two months."
Novara said customers should bring any recalled patties back to a Simek's store for a full refund or to exchange them for other ground beef products.
The patties were produced by Rochester Meat Company of Rochester and distributed by Simek's. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture lab confirmed Wednesday that a sample was contaminated with E. coli. The source of the contamination was under investigation.
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