CDC Officials Warn Wisconsin: Avoid ‘Cannibal Sandwiches’

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention are warning Wisconsin residents not to eat the state’s traditional raw beef sandwiches this holiday season after E. coli outbreaks occurred last year.

The “cannibal sandwich” is an appetizer consisting of raw sirloin, usually topped with thin-sliced, raw onion, and served on rye bread. Sometimes a raw egg will also be mixed with the meat.

Last holiday season, there were four confirmed E. coli cases tied to eating cannibal sandwiches and 13 other cases that were also likely E. coli, according to a CDC report issued this week.

The meat was bought at a Watertown market that later recalled more than 2,500 pounds of meat, NBC News reported. Carol Quest, director of the Watertown health department, said their investigation found no health violations at the market.

"The big message is that people need to cook their food properly and make sure they're taking temperatures of their meat," Quest warned.

Milwaukee historian John Gurda says the sandwich was served at German and Polish festivities since the 19th century.

"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," Gurda told NBC.

It was often seen at weddings, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, and funerals, up until several years ago when many became conscious of the risk of eating raw beef. 

Also referred to as “tiger meat,” “steak tartare,” or just “ground beef,” the cannibal sandwich led to other E. coli outbreaks in 1972, 1978, and 1994.

Symptoms of E. coli infection includes stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever and vomiting. The incubation period can be as short as one day or as long as 10 days.

Sources: Newser, NBC News