US meat processor Excel Corporation, a subsidiary of US agribusiness Cargill, has said it is voluntarily recalling approximately 45,030 pounds of ground beef because of fears over possible contamination by E. coli O157:H7.

The product had a "use or freeze by" date of 29 April 2004. It was produced at Excel's Dodge City, Kansas facility and sold to distributors in Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Alabama, Illinois, Texas and Minnesota.

Most of the product is likely to have been consumed, but some could be in consumers' freezers, Excel said, adding that so far no illnesses have been associated with the product.

The product was produced on 9 April and tested negative for the E. coli bacteria as part of Excel's test-and-hold program for ground beef. This week, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) notified Excel of a positive test sample taken from a business that had reground some of the product.

The company advised consumers to cook ground beef to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill E. coli bacteria.