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“Cannibal Sandwiches” Sickening Wisconsin Residents

Update Date: Dec 06, 2013 02:32 PM EST

In Wisconsin, it is a tradition to serve "cannibal sandwiches," which are little cocktail bread pieces topped with raw, lean ground beef. Even though some raw meat can be safe to consume, health officials are warning people from picking up a cannibal sandwich during this holiday season. According to the officials, the raw meat can sicken people like they did during last year's holiday time.

During last year's season, the health officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had confirmed four cases of E. coli bacteria with 13 other likely cases due to these raw meat sandwiches. The meat that was used came from Watertown market, which ended up recalling 2,500 pounds of meat. As a precaution, the officials are recommending people to stay away from this tradition this year.

The cannibal sandwich tradition has been called "tiger meat," "steak tartare" or simply as "ground beef" over the years. The appetizer is made by seasoning the raw lean ground meat with salt and pepper and then combining it with sliced raw onions on top of a slice of rye cocktail bread. Sometimes, the appetizer will be served with a raw egg mixed into the meat. Even though the appetizer is a Wisconsin tradition, it has been the cause of outbreaks in 1972, 1978 and 1994 within the state.

"Despite ongoing outreach efforts addressing the dangers associated with consuming undercooked or raw ground beef, this regional holiday tradition continues to be associated with outbreaks," the CDC reported according to Reuters.

"It's like a coarse pate and when you put the onions on, there's a crunch as well and that kind of cuts the softness," a Milwaukee historian, John Gurda, said according to ABC Local. Gurda served the appetizer at his 1977 wedding reception.

Residents looking to make the cannibal sandwich often turn to L&M Meats, a Kenosha butcher shop owned by Keith Meyer. Meyer's shop sells around 50 to 100 pounds of ground meat during the holiday season, which spans from Christmas Eve to New York's Eve. Other shops, such as Glenn's Market and Catering, and the Watertown Butcher sell similar amounts of ground round. These shops sell their raw meat with warning labels about the potential risks of consuming the meat raw. However, even these labels will not stop people from carrying out a tradition.

"It's really not that bad, if you get by the texture of it," Meyer commented. "It's like eating a cold hamburger that's a little on the raw side."

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