Ground Beef in HelloFresh Meal Kits Linked to E. Coli Outbreak

The USDA has issued a public health alert

By Lisa L. Gill

The U. S. Department of Agriculture issued a public health alert for HelloFresh customers. Ground beef that was part of some meal kits shipped between July 2, 2022 and July 21, 2022  may be contaminated with a dangerous form of E. coli known as O157:H7. The alert comes after seven people have become ill from consuming ground beef from one of its suppliers, Thomas Foods, according to a spokesperson from HelloFresh.

Thomas Foods did not immediately respond to our questions, including whether or not HelloFresh is the only affected retailer.

The USDA alert is for 10-ounce, plastic vacuum-packed packages labeled as “Ground Beef 85% Lean/15% Fat” with an establishment code of either  “EST#46841 L1 22 155” or “EST#46841 L5 22 155” on the side of the packaging.

No recall has been issued by either company because the product is no longer available from HelloFresh. The company did not answer CRs questions about whether or not its customers who received the ground beef in question had been notified, or if a refund will be offered.

“HelloFresh customers should check their freezers for ground beef they haven’t used yet,” says James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety and testing for Consumer Reports. “This strain of E. coli could make some people extremely ill, so I would not take the chance of cooking it, even if you cooked it properly,” he says.

The Risk of E. Coli O157:H7

One reason consumers should be so careful is that E. coli O157:H7 “should never be found in any ground beef,” says Rogers.

The O157:H7 E. coli strain produces a toxin, called shiga toxin, that can harm the intestines, and can cause painful, bloody diarrhea. In 5 to 10 percent of cases, it can trigger potentially fatal kidney damage. More typical symptoms, which usually appear two to five days after ingesting contaminated food, can include vomiting, stomach cramps, fatigue, nausea, a low fever, and diarrhea.

Most people will get better without any treatment other than rest and hydration, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Avoid anti-diarrheal medication, which can slow your digestive system and prevent your body from getting rid of the toxin. Antibiotics also aren’t recommended, as they don’t help treat the infection and actually increase the risk of serious complications.

An estimated 95,000 people are infected each year in the U.S. with E. coli O157:H7, according to the CDC.

For more information on ground meat safety, see CR’s investigation, Is Our Ground Meat Safe to Eat?

The Details

Affected Product: 10-ounce packages of ground beef shipped by HelloFresh between July 2, 2022 and July 21, 2022. The packages are labeled “Ground Beef 85% Lean/15% Fat” and with an establishment codes of either  “EST#46841 L1 22 155” or “EST#46841 L5 22 155” on the side of the packaging.

The problem: The products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The fix: Check your freezer and throw out any affected packages.

How to contact the manufacturer: Call 1-646-846-3663, email, via live chat.

USDA hotline for food-safety questions: 888-674-6854.

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