Cannibal Sandwiches – Raw Ground Beef – an Unhealthy Appetizer

Friday, 06 Dec 2013 10:46 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Cannibal sandwiches, a traditional Wisconsin appetizer that features raw, lean ground beef served on cocktail bread, is being discouraged this holiday season after state health officials concluded it was not safe due to more than a dozen people becoming ill after consuming it last year.

The Associated Press reported that cannibal sandwiches were responsible for at least four confirmed cases of E. coli bacteria poisoning and 13 likely cases in people who ate the sandwiches at several gatherings late last year, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report issued this week.

The meat responsible for last year's E. coli bacteria outbreak came from a Watertown, Wis. market, the AP reported. The market subsequently recalled more than 2,500 pounds of meat.

Cannibal sandwiches were reportedly responsible for similar E. coli outbreaks in Wisconsin in 1972, 1978 and 1994.

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The appetizer has been a popular festive dish in German, Polish and other Central and Eastern European communities throughout the state since the 19th century Milwaukee historian John Gurda told the AP.

It is generally seasoned with salt and pepper and served on rye cocktail bread with raw sliced onion, according to Gurda. In addition to being known as a cannibal sandwich, the dish is also called "tiger meat," ''steak tartare" or simply "ground beef."

"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," said Gurda, who served it at his 1977 wedding reception.

"It's really not that bad, if you get by the texture of it," Keith Meyer, who runs L&M Meats butcher shop in Kenosha, Wis., told the AP. "It's like eating a cold hamburger that's a little on the raw side."

The 57-year-old Meyer added that though his family no longer serves the dish at their Holiday parties after his father – who enjoyed it most – passed on, others in the area still likely serving it considering his butcher shop sold 50 to 100 pounds of freshly ground round last Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.

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