Public health officials have linked an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in Oregon and Washington to a brand of extra-lean ground beef sold at Fred Meyer and Safeway stores.

Public health officials have linked an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in Oregon and Washington to a brand of extra-lean ground beef sold at Fred Meyer and Safeway stores.

At least eight people have fallen ill with infections from the bacteria E. coli O157H7, including two people from Deschutes County, said Tom Towslee, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Human Services.

The meat also was sold at QFC stores.

An alert was issued today by the federal Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The bacteria can cause mild to severe intestinal illness, including severe cramps and diarrhea that is often bloody. Some patients develop complications that may require hospitalization. In rare cases, the bacteria can cause severe or fatal kidney damage.

Towslee said the bacteria has been traced to extra-lean ground beef sold under the "Northwest Finest" brand as "natural ground beef 7 % fat" with a UPC code that reads 7 52907 60012 7.

It was also sold as "Northwest Finest" organic ground beef 10 % fat" with no UPC code.

Towslee said the meat was sold in 16-ounce black plastic trays between late July and early August, with sell-by dates between Aug. 1 and Aug. 11, 2007.

Extra-lean ground beef is a specialty item that is relatively rare compared to bulk ground beef that is sold with higher fat content. Public health officials said the meat should be disposed of.

— Bill Kettler

More details: Friday's Mail Tribune