Ground beef
The USDA has recalled 40,000 pounds of ground beef meant for school lunches in Georgia. REUTERS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a Class I recall for 40,000 pounds of ground beef product intended for Georgia school lunches, due to possible E. coli contamination.

The beef was distributed by Palo Duro Meat, a company based in Amarillo, Texas. The frozen products were produced on Sept. 9, 2011, and shipped to two warehouses in Georgia for further distribution to six school districts in the state, according to a statement by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). However, the agency reports it is not aware of the beef having been served in school lunches, adding that a majority of the meat has not yet left the warehouses.

Moreover, neither the company nor the USDA has received any reports of illness in relation to the consumption of the contaminated meat.

The contaminated meat may have been mixed with commercial products due to a sample tracking error. The problem was reportedly discovered by Palo Duro Meat after a review of lab results that confirmed a positive result for E. coli 0157:H7 on Sept. 22.

The beef was shipped in 40-pound boxes, each marked with Est. 7282 and a production code of 19110.

E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that can be particularly harmful for young children, seniors and people with weak immune systems. Symptoms of E. coli poisoning include bloody diarrhea, dehydration and in severe cases, kidney failure.

The FSIS advises all consumers to cook raw ground beef to a temperature of 160 degrees in order to kill harmful bacteria and avoid sickness.