Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Raw meat sandwiches? Wisconsin residents warned against dangerous holiday tradition

All meat should be properly cooked, experts say.
(Getty Images)

Story at a glance

  • Raw beef on rye bread is a holiday tradition for some in Wisconsin.

  • The delicacy is known as “tiger meat,” “steak tartare,” or simply “raw beef and onions.”

  • Health experts warn that consuming raw meat can lead to illness from salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, campylobacter and listeria bacteria.

(WFRV) — The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is reminding people about the dangers of eating a Wisconsin family holiday tradition: raw meat sandwiches.

Raw meat on rye, a polarizing holiday delicacy in Wisconsin and the Midwest is sometimes referred to as “Tiger Meat” or “Cannibal Sandwiches.”

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society: “An appetizer of raw, lean ground beef served on bread (especially rye cocktail bread) with sliced onions, salt, and pepper. Also known as ‘tiger meat,’ ‘steak tartare,’ or simply ‘raw beef and onions,’ the sandwiches have traditionally been served at holiday parties and other festive gatherings in the Milwaukee area.”

The Wisconsin DHS says that eating these raw meat sandwiches poses a threat for salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, campylobacter, and listeria bacteria.

“Regardless of where you buy your ground beef, these risks are real,” says the agency. “Since 1986, eight outbreaks have been reported in Wisconsin linked to eating a raw ground beef dish, including a large Salmonella outbreak involving more than 150 people during December 1994. Ground beef should ALWAYS be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.”

An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis from listeria bacteria each year, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems, according to the DHS and the CDC. Nearly one-quarter of pregnancy-associated cases result in fetal loss or newborn death.

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and, in rare cases, the bloodstream. It is the most commonly reported cause of bacterial diarrhea in Wisconsin.

Salmonella, meanwhile, causes nearly 1 million illnesses spread by food nationwide, according to DHS.

For more holiday food safety tips, click here.

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