updated 8/6/2010 2:01:15 PM ET 2010-08-06T18:01:15

A meat processor recalled about 1 million pounds of ground beef products Friday after seven people were sickened by E. coli contamination.

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Valley Meat Co., of Modesto, sold the potentially contaminated beef patties and ground beef in California, Texas, Oregon, Arizona and internationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.

The beef was processed from Oct. 2, 2009, to Jan. 12, 2010. Most of the products were sold frozen and the company was working to remove them from grocery store shelves.

"This is the first recall in our history and we will investigate the matter thoroughly and take any measures deemed necessary to further elevate our safety standards, protect consumers, and ensure confidence in our products," Valley Meat said in a statement.

All of the recalled products have the establishment number "EST. 8268" inside the label's USDA mark of inspection. Valley Meat said consumers should discard possibly affected meat or return it to stores for a refund.

The California Department of Health notified the USDA in mid-July of a cluster of E. coli-related illnesses, leading to the recall. A department spokesman said officials would issue a statement later Friday.

Tests identified the bacteria as E. coli O157:H7, the strain most commonly responsible for food poisoning. Symptoms of infection often include often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and a low fever. More serious infections can lead to kidney failure, brain damage and sometimes death.

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