The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) yesterday said it is cooperating with a ground beef recall announced by American Foods Group, Inc., a wholesale meat supplier based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

American Foods announced the recall as a precautionary measure after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) detected the presence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli) bacteria in a sample of beef processed by American Foods.

Kroger has not received any complaints of illness related to the product.

In accordance with American Foods' recall, Kroger is asking consumers to check their freezers for Kroger-brand ground beef purchased in three- or five- pound tubes with a sell-by date of August 19, 2001, USDA EST #410, from Kroger stores in the following states: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia and North Carolina. The recall also includes Jay C, Pay Less and Owen's stores in Indiana; Kessel Food Markets in Michigan; and Hilander stores in Illinois. Consumers should return this ground beef to the store for a full refund or replacement.

In addition, Kroger customers in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Michigan should check their freezers for ground beef (packaged in foam trays and wrapped in plastic film) with sell-by dates of August 3, 2001 through August 19, 2001, that was purchased from Kroger stores in those states. The recall also includes Jay C, Pay Less and Owen's stores in Indiana; Kessel Food Markets in Michigan; and Hilander stores in Illinois. The recall includes ground beef, ground chuck, ground sirloin, ground round, and fresh ground beef patties. These products should also be returned to the store for a full refund or replacement.

Customers who have questions about the recall may contact Kroger toll-free at (800) 632-6900.

American Foods' recall serves as another reminder to consumers that proper handling, storage and cooking of ground beef offers the best protection against food-borne illness. According to the USDA, when ground beef is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, the E. coli bacteria is destroyed and the ground beef is safe to consume.

Kroger has stringent quality control and food safety programs in place to ensure the quality and safety of the meat products sold at its stores. These programs include employee training in procedures designed to minimize or eliminate the risk of contamination at every step in the preparation and display of meat items.