Whenever there is a food recall Public Radio reporter John Sepulvado is not far behind. I had a chance to talk to him this afternoon after he sent me a tweet.

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1 million pounds of beef packaged in Modesto has been recalled due to possible E. coli contamination.

Yet, over the past four years, meat recalls linked to E. coli have declined dramatically nationwide.

In 2007 more than 30 million pounds of meat were pulled in 21 separate recalls. And since then, according to federal government records, meat recalls have dropped off. In 2009, there were 13 recalls totaling less than a million pounds of meat. Some scientists have speculated the fluctuation could be due to climate change, while the meat packing industry says packing has gotten safer.

Bill Marler is a Seattle based attorney specializing in food borne illnesses. He says the packing industry has taken greater strides to prevent E. coli contamination, but ultimately it takes very little E. coli to make someone sick.

“Ten to fifteen bacterium are enough to kill you,” Marler says. “A hundred thousand of them would fit on the head of a pin. That’s really difficult to control.”

So far this year, there have been 12 recalls.