Flickr/Mate Marschalko
Yes, they can cause outbreaks. Midwesterners roll the dice

Going Rogue

Midwestern roulette. You’ve probably never eaten a raw ground beef sandwich. But in frigid, snowbound Wisconsin, they’re a cold weather tradition. The locals call them “cannibals,” or “tiger meat”: hamburger served uncooked between slices of rye bread, or on crackers, with peppers, onions, and just a touch of salt. Every winter, cheeseheads serve them on platters for football parties and holiday get-togethers. And, fairly often, people get sick. It happens so regularly that the state’s Department of Health just published a press release with a clear message: cut it out.

“Historically in Wisconsin, consumption of these sandwiches has led to outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella infections, including an outbreak that involved 150 people in 1994,” DHS wrote. The sandwiches also caused outbreaks, apparently, in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 2012 and 2013. That’s not every year, so maybe Wisconsinites are willing to roll the dice. Still, the odds are way better than the Packers’ Super Bowl chances. 

Joe Fassler bio

Joe Fassler

Joe Fassler is New Food Economy's senior editor. His food safety and public health reporting has been a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award in Journalism. Follow him @joefassler.