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Is there contaminated ground beef in your freezer? How to check

Health officials are concerned contaminated ground beef could still be in customer's freezers.

NEW ORLEANS -- If you're planning to grill some hamburgers this weekend for your game-watching party, don't forget about that ground beef recall.

Earlier this year, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled nearly 140,000 lbs. of ground beef products that caused one death and made 17 people sick from E. coli.

Even though the death and the dozen and a half illnesses were in July, federal health officials are concerned the contaminated ground beef may still be in your freezer.

"If that meat is contaminated with E. coli and you ingest, it you're at risk for developing infection," said Dr. Fred Lopez, infectious disease specialist with LSU Health Sciences Center.

E. coli is a bacterium in animal colons and feces. And the freezer won't kill it. Dr. Lopez says most people who get sick will get well on their own.

"It's typically a gastrointestinal illness, usually diarrhea, often times bloody diarrhea that occurs a few days after ingesting contaminated ground beef," he said.

But a small number of people can go into kidney failure, develop low red blood cell counts and need hospital care. Some will die.

"It's young patients, so children are more at risk and then people who are older who are immunocompromised either because of chronic medical conditions, maybe they're immunosuppressed because they have cancer," said Dr. Lopez.

You won't have much fever, so rest, drink plenty of fluids, and call your doctor if you have bloody diarrhea. Most importantly, throw the recalled meat away. And for the future, use a meat thermometer in the middle of the meat when you cook.

"So, the key is to cook your ground beef to internal temperatures of at least 160 degrees. That's the most effective way to get rid of this bacteria," he said.

And wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, because they can get contaminated out in the fields by animals walking through them.

Symptoms can show up one to 10 days after eating contaminated foods.

To identify the recalled meat: it has the establishment number “EST. 86R” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

For the full list of contaminated products, click here.

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