The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) said it is cooperating with a voluntary ground beef recall announced today 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 Minnesota Department of Health linked 22 recent illnesses related to Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli) bacteria to ground beef that may have been manufactured by American Foods.

Kroger, which does not operate in Minnesota, 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 any ground beef dated from November 4 through November 22 that was purchased from Kroger, King Soopers, City Market or Hilander stores in the following states: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Colorado and Wyoming. Consumers should return this ground beef to the store for a full refund or replacement.

In addition, customers should also check their freezers for Kroger-brand ground beef purchased in one-, three- or five-pound tubes dated November 19 or November 20 from Kroger stores in the following states: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. This ground beef should also be returned to the store for a full refund or replacement.

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.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger is the nation’s largest retail grocery chain. At the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2000, the Company operated 2,338 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under more than a dozen banners, including Kroger, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Smith’s, King Soopers, Dillon, Fry’s, City Market, Food 4 Less and Quality Food Centers. Kroger also operates 789 convenience stores, 397 fine jewelry stores and 42 food processing plants.