a major threat to the beef industry, the levels of E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef have been on a historic decline since peaking in the mid-1990s. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), levels of E. coli infections today are less than half of what they were in 1996, and beef companies have dramatically improved safety measures to reduce the economic impact of ground beef recalls when contamination is found. But E. coli infections have been on an upward trend since 2010, when rates were at 0.95 illnesses per every 100,000 people. In 2013, the rate reached 1.15 illnesses per 100,000, still far below the peak of 2.62 per 100,000 in 1996. The slight uptick was reportedly enough to prompt the creation of a six-point strategy to reverse the trend, designed by USDA’s Strategic Performance Working Group (SPWG) within the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). In USDA’s own words, the SPWG is a team of field personnel, microbiologists and policymakers who “come together periodically to tackle serious and stubborn challenges.” Previously, the team developed the agency’s Salmonella Action Plan that has been in effect since December 2013. The team’s recommendations come in two parts. First, USDA needs to improve how government inspectors verify slaughterhouse performance of sanitary procedures through better training, more correlations, and developing a standard to assess industry’s performance of sanitary dressing. This might include using photographs of real-world scenarios to better illustrate potential concerns. Second, USDA should provide better information to the industry on sanitary dressing, such as creating a guide to highlight best practices.