The meat industry has made great strides over the past decade in reducing E. coli-related illnesses, says American Meat Institute President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle, who appeared on “Good Morning America” this week.

The segment, which focused on E. coli in ground beef, was the first in a three-part series, “What’s in Your Food.”

"You have to recall we are dealing with a fresh product," Boyle said. "But as we have tried to comply with zero-tolerance standards, we've made enormous progress over the last 10 years."

During the segment, six packages of 100 percent ground beef patties purchased at major supermarket chains in Seattle were taken to IEH Laboratories, one of the meat industry's largest independent testing labs. Lab tests reported that meat from at least four cows had been found in each hamburger patty tested. 

Boyle then proceeded to explain the reason that hamburger often contains meat from multiple sources.

"Our ground beef supply is a combination of different types of meat in proportion to certain levels of fat," Boyle said. "So one has to have multiple sources of the raw material to make the finished product that Americans enjoy so much."

 Also appearing in the segment was Elizabeth Hagan, chief medical officer with the United States Department of Agriculture who said the key to preventing E. coli-related illness is in the cooking.

 "The safest way to ensure that your meat is properly cooked is to use a meat thermometer," Hagen said.

Watch a video segment from ABC News of Boyle’s discussion.

Source: Drovers (sister publication to Dairy Herd Management)