Kroger said on Wednesday it is voluntarily recalling all ground beef products sold in Michigan and certain Ohio stores between May 21 and June 8 because the meat has been linked to recent outbreaks of E. coli bacteria.
The grocery store chain said the ground beef products are no longer available to purchase in its stores, but they were sold at its stores throughout Michigan and in central and northern Ohio, near the cities of Columbus and Toledo.
The recall comes after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that outbreaks of E. coli bacteria in Michigan and Ohio were linked, and officials in both states suspected the outbreak was caused by ground beef.
Health officials in Michigan said late Tuesday more than half of the 15 people in the state with confirmed E. coli cases reported purchasing ground beef from Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain.
Kroger said it is still working with health authorities to identify the supplier of the specific type of ground beef that may have caused the illnesses. In the meantime, Kroger is asking shoppers to check their freezers for ground beef products with sell-by dates of May 21 through June 8, and return the items to stores for a full refund or replacement.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Ohio Departments of Health and Agriculture said a sample of raw ground beef was found to contain the same harmful strain of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria that caused outbreaks in Ohio and Michigan and sickened 19 in Ohio in recent weeks.
According to the CDC Web site, E. coli 0157:H7 is an especially toxic strain which can cause severe illness. Symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Most people get better within 15 days, but some cases can lead to kidney failure.
The CDC estimates that there may be about 70,000 infections with E. coli O157:H7 each year in the United States, but many of those infected people do not seek medical care.