The federal government reports a dramatic drop in the number of illnesses caused by a potentially deadly bacteria found in ground beef. It also reports a dramatic drop in the number of contaminated meat samples discovered — even with more samples tested.
The E. coli bacteria infects about 73,000 people each year and kills about 60 of them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the number of E. coli infections declined 36 percent from 2002 to 2003, the most recent dates for which figures are available.
The Agriculture Department said there was a 43 percent decline in the number of samples of contaminated meat. The department credits recent upgrades in plant procedures.
Prepare Ground Beef Safely:
— Ground beef patties should be cooked to 160 F.
— Use an accurate, digital, instant-read thermometer to be sure of the temperature.
— Color is not a reliable indicator of the cooking temperature.