September 14, 2022
Ground beef that was included in HelloFresh meal kits shipped to consumers in July may be contaminated with E. coli, a bacteria that can cause severe intestinal infections.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert Saturday but did not request a recall because the products were shipped from July 2-21 and are no longer available for purchase. At this point, most HelloFresh subscribers who received the meat likely have consumed it, but anyone who froze the beef is advised to discard it.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service determined that the meat is the probable source of illnesses caused by an E. coli strain known to cause illness. Traceback information linked the infected patients to ground beef produced at a specific manufacturing location and distributed by HelloFresh, a German-based meal subscription service.
The beef was distributed in 10-oz. plastic vacuum-packed packages labeled "GROUND BEEF 85% LEAN / 15% FAT" with codes “EST#46841 L1 22 155” or “EST#46841 L5 22 155” on the side of the encasement and "EST.46841" printed inside the USDA mark of inspection.
Consumers are advised to only eat ground beef that has been cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that kills harmful bacteria, and to use a food thermometer to be sure. When storing meat, the refrigerator should be set to 40 degrees and the freezer should be 0 degrees or below. Ground beef should only be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days.
E. coli bacteria are found in the environment, foods and intestines of people and animals, according to the U.S. enters for Disease Control and Prevention. Most strains are harmless, but others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia.
E. coli infections cause about 265,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States each year. Around 40% of these infections are caused by the strain responsible for the outbreak linked to HelloFresh kits.
There have been more than 30 E. coli outbreaks across the country in the last decade. In August, an E. coli outbreak with as many as 65 cases in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana was linked to romaine lettuce served by Wendy's fast food chain.
Another meal kit service, Daily Harvest, was forced to recall its French Lentil and Leek Crumbles meal in June after people experienced sickness likely caused by undercooked lentils. In 2020, HelloFresh received more than 20 reports of food poisoning from customers in New Zealand who consumed spoiled fish.
On social media, HelloFresh responded to concerned customers who had learned about the possible contamination.
"HelloFresh takes food safety and quality very seriously," the company wrote in an Instagram comment. "We can confirm the ground beef you're receiving from HelloFresh is safe to consume when cooked at the USDA recommended temperature. Specifically, ground beef should be cooked to 160F. Out of an abundance of caution, we partnered with the USDA in drafting the alert for public notification,"
The company issued a similar response to a user on Twitter.