This holiday weekend at the barbecue with family and friends, be careful before you bite into that juicy burger.

Utahns need to check the packaging of their ground beef, after Smith's Food and Drug on Wednesday issued a recall of some hamburger for fear it may be linked to illness caused by E. coli bacteria.

Ground beef purchased with "sell by" dates ranging from May 21 to July 3 at Smith's in Styrofoam tray packages wrapped in clear cellophane or purchased from an in-store service counter should be thrown out or taken to the store for a refund. People are also protected if they cook the beef to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, when juices run clear. Food preparers should wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

"Customers should look for and carefully check if they have any ground beef in their refrigerators or freezers," said Meghan Glynn, spokeswoman for The Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture linked E. coli illnesses that occurred in Michigan and Ohio between May 31 and June 8 to beef from Omaha-based Nebraska Beef Ltd., and Kroger instituted the voluntary recall. Nebraska Beef has recalled from wholesalers and other processing companies nearly 532,000 pounds of ground beef produced on five dates between May 16 and June 24.

E. coli infections can cause severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Most people recover within five to seven days.

Smith's spokeswoman Marsha Gilford did not know how much ground beef associated with Nebraska Beef had been sold.

"The chances are very slim that any product in Utah will be implicated, but we don't want to take any chances," Gilford said.

Kroger owns Smith's and is the nation's largest traditional grocer. Other Kroger stores include Fred Meyer, Ralphs and Hilander. In Utah, Kroger operates 47 Smith's stores. Smith's has 142 stores in seven states.

"We buy in group to get the best price for our customers for things like meat," said Gilford.

Inside all Smith's stores, Nebraska Beef with May 21-July 3 "sell by" dates was thrown out. Customers now should be safe if they purchase ground beef for the holiday weekend, Gilford said.

People with questions are asked to call Kroger customer service representatives at 800-632-6900 or visit kroger.com/recalls.


Contributing: Associated Press.

E-mail: [email protected]