MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Health officials are warning Wisconsin residents about a holiday tradition that involves eating raw meat after more than a dozen people became ill last year.
A weekly report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the people became ill after eating "tiger meat" or "cannibal sandwiches."
Milwaukee historian John Gurda says the sandwiches are an appetizer featuring raw, lean ground meat seasoned with salt and pepper on rye cocktail bread with sliced raw onion. The sandwiches are served at holidays and other celebrations, usually by people of German or Polish descent.
The CDC says it confirmed four cases of illness with E. coli and 13 likely cases in people who ate the sandwiches last holiday season. Health officials say people should not eat uncooked meat.
MADISON, Wis. (DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES NEWS RELEASE) – This holiday season, health experts from the Wisconsin Departments of Health Services (DHS) and Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) remind people that eating raw or undercooked ground meat can result in foodborne illness. An outbreak of illness in Watertown last winter was linked to eating raw ground beef, served as “tiger meat” or “cannibal sandwiches.” These dishes typically consist of raw ground beef topped with salt, pepper, and onions. They are often served on rye bread or crackers.
“As you plan your meals for upcoming gatherings, remember that no one wants to be sick during the holidays,” said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer. “You also don’t want to be responsible for spreading illness to family members and friends.”
The 2012 outbreak was caused by the bacteria E. coli O157:H7. Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infections include severe stomach cramps and diarrhea, which may be bloody. Infection can lead to kidney failure in some people, especially the elderly, people with weakened immune systems, and children under five years old.
Raw ground beef served as “tiger meat” was previously associated with large outbreaks of foodborne illness in Wisconsin in 1972, 1978, and 1994. Eating raw ground beef can also lead to infections from other bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter.
Most bacteria in meat, poultry, and eggs can be killed by thorough cooking. To prevent illness, ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). Temperature should be measured with a food thermometer.
Follow these tips to keep your family safe during the holidays:
• Clean – Wash hands and surfaces thoroughly and often.
• Separate – Keep raw meat and poultry separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
• Cook – Use a food thermometer and cook foods to the appropriate temperature.
• Chill – Refrigerate foods promptly.
For more information about food safety or E. coli, click on the links on the right side of this story.