Urgent Warning Issued for Popular Meal Kits That Might Be in Your Freezer

Ground beef products shipped to homes across the country as part of HelloFresh meal kits could be contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said in a public health alert published on Sunday. No recall was issued since the affected products are not available for purchase. They were sent to consumers in meal kits between July 2 and July 21.

The ground beef is packaged in 10-oz., vacuum-sealed packages, with "GROUND BEEF 85% LEAN/15% FAT" printed on the label. The packages also include the codes "EST#46841 L1 22 155" or "EST#46841 L5 22 155" on the side of the packages. The establishment number "EST.46841" is printed inside the USDA mark of inspection on the package. You can see an image of the packaging by clicking here.

FSIS is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health partners to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, and raw ground beef is suspected to be the cause of a reported illness. Investigators discovered that patients received ground beef from HelloFresh meal kits in July. "Traceback of materials used to produce the ground beef is ongoing and FSIS continues to work with suppliers and public health partners on the investigation," FSIS said.

Although the ground beef is no longer being distributed, FSIS is concerned that some consumers may still have the packages in their freezers. Consumers who have them should throw them away and not consume them. Consumers should prepare raw meat products safely before consuming them.

Ground beef should be at a temperature of 160° F before eating. Consumers should get a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature to make sure the meat was cooked at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria. Consumers with questions about the alert can contact HelloFresh by email at hello@hellofresh.com or by the company's live chat.

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Most E. coli are harmless, but some strains can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections, and other illnesses, according to the CDC. These dangerous E. coli strains are transmitted through contaminated food or water, or contact with animals and people. The best way to prevent an E. coli infection is to practice good hygiene, especially handwashing, and cook meats thoroughly. Pregnant women, children, older adults, newborns, and those with weakened immune systems are among those most susceptible to foodborne illnesses.