Wisconsinites and fans of uncooked meat, here is your annual holiday health warning.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is urging residents to put down their cannibal sandwiches, also known as raw meat sandwiches, tiger meat or steak tartare.
“Many Wisconsin families consider them to be a holiday tradition, but eating them poses a threat for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter and Listeria bacteria that can make you sick,” the department wrote in a Facebook post Saturday, which it called its annual reminder. “Remember, ground beef should ALWAYS be cooked to an internal temperature of 160° F.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, included the sandwiches often served with raw onions on its 2018 list of Wisconsin’s favorite holiday culinary traditions.
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Hundreds of people in the Midwest partake of the seasonal tradition, according to a 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture blog post, which offers some tips for eating the sandwiches.
“If cannibal sandwiches are a tradition in your home, try this safe alternative: cook the ground beef with the same spices and toppings, until it reaches 160°F, and serve it on top of bread or crackers,” the USDA said. “You may be surprised to find that it tastes better when cooked! Not to mention, you won’t be risking a trip to the hospital with every mouthful.”
The Wisconsin health department website notes there have been eight outbreaks in the state since 1986, linked to people eating a raw ground beef dish. In December 1994, there was a salmonella outbreak affecting more than 150 people.
Food safety for the holidays
Wisconsin and federal health officials also offer additional food safety tips:
Eggnog: Traditional eggnog made with raw eggs is a potential risk because the raw egg may contain salmonella. While cooking can destroy the disease-causing bacteria, consumers can still become ill when the eggnog is left at room temperature for several hours before being consumed, the Wisconsin health department says. Safe alternatives are pasteurized eggnog beverages sold in grocery dairy cases, which should be kept refrigerated.
Cookie dough: Don’t eat raw cookie dough and batter made with flour or eggs that can contain harmful germs, such as E. coli and salmonella. Some companies have edible cookie dough that uses heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs.
Raw chicken: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says don’t wash raw chicken because it can spread germs from the chicken to other food or utensils in the kitchen.
Cook food thoroughly: Meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, and eggs can carry germs that cause food poisoning, the CDC says. Use a food thermometer to ensure these foods have been cooked to a safe internal temperature. Roasts, chops, steaks, and fresh ham should rest for three minutes after you remove them from the oven or grill.
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