OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Meatpacking giant IBP Inc. said Thursday that the half-million pounds of ground beef it recalled in 33 states because of possible E. coli contamination is not dangerous if it is cooked thoroughly.

Because most of the meat went to 71 distributors, which then sold it to restaurants and grocery stores for use primarily in prepared dishes, consumers have almost no way of knowing if they have bought any of the 556,226 pounds of ground beef, IBP said.

However, roughly 7 percent went directly to consumers, sold in generic retail tubes labeled ``Ground Beef (20 percent fat)'' or ``Ground Beef (27 percent fat)'' with the product code: EST 245C SELL/FREEZE BY NOV 09 B.

The meatpacker said it believes most of the ground beef already has been consumed and no illnesses have been reported.

``If consumers are concerned they should call the outlet where they bought the meat to see if they are under the recall or just make sure to cook it well,'' said Gary Mickelson, IBP spokesman. ``It poses no danger if it's cooked all the way.''

IBP announced the recall Wednesday after learning that meat sold to one distributor was tainted with E. coli 0157:H7, a strain of the bacteria that can lead to kidney failure, coma and death.

Chris Church, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said inspectors were testing samples of the beef Thursday to confirm the presence of E. coli.

Mickelson would not specify which restaurants or distributors were affected.

The affected states are: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.