Mix one-pound fresh ground beef with one finely chopped onion. Spread a portion of the mixture on a piece of bread — preferably homemade rye — and top with salt, pepper, and another slice of bread. No oven or stovetop required.
The “Cannibal Sandwich,” an infamous (or famous, depending on who you ask) Wisconsin holiday tradition has divided the Twitterverse. Also going by the name “tiger meat,” this dish supposedly has roots in the German Mettbrötchen, a sandwich made from raw minced pork.
Public Health authorities would rather this tradition be retired for good, or at least replaced with cooked beef.
“For many #Wisconsin families, raw meat sandwiches are a #holiday tradition, but eating raw meat is NEVER recommended because of the bacteria it can contain,” the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Tweeted this week. “Ground beef should always be cooked to 160 degrees!”
Many die-hard Wisconsinites are not fazed by the annual warning to stay away. Last Christmas, Bunzel’s Meat Market in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sold over 1,000 pounds of raw beef and over 250 pounds of onions for Cannibal sandwiches, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
“My family always had this growing up. We were fine.” Writes one Twitter user, then adding that her family would forego the bread and eat the dish with their fingers.https://twitter.com/A_Bates16/status/1338238400655187970?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%22%3EDecember%2013%2C%202020
Other users defended the tradition but acknowledged its dicey safety history.
Raw delicacies worth the health risks?
Raw beef, no matter the cut or quality, can potentially become a breeding ground for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter or Listeria.
In 2013, 14 people were infected with E. coli O157:H7 after consuming cannibal sandwiches made with contaminated beef. Three more people were infected by eating food that had been cross-contaminated with the meat.
Since 1984, eight outbreaks of have been linked to eating raw ground beef by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. In December 1994, 150 people became sick from Salmonella from raw ground beef.
Salmonella, a bacteria commonly found in animal intestines, is one of the most common causes of food-borne illness in the U.S. and Canada. Typically transferred to the rest of the meat during the butchering process, individuals who come into contact with Salmonella may contract Salmonellosis. Symptoms include fever, nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea and will typically last four to seven days.
Canadians like their raw meat too
Although Cannibal sandwiches are fairly rare north of the border, raw meat dishes such as steak tartare and beef carpaccio, are served in restaurants and homes across Canada.
Illnesses are not uncommon — a review completed by Ontario Public Health found consuming raw meat accounted for 63 outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in Canada between January, 1, 2010 and February 21, 2018. Salmonella was the worst offender, causing 22 reported outbreaks from raw beef and 12 from raw pork. Alarmingly, two outbreaks of Hepatitis E were also recorded from the consumption of raw pork over this timeframe.
Restaurants are legally allowed to serve raw meat in Canada with exception of Prince Edward Island. Local health bodies across the country, however, may impose different restrictions.
For those who are still interested in the dish, meat should be freshly butchered and kept chilled, although this won’t remove all of the risks. If ordering from a restaurant, it’s also a good idea to inquire when the meat was butchered and where it comes from.
If you don’t intend to take the risk, also make sure that all other food served with the raw meat was prepared separately as cross contamination can pack quite a punch.
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