'Cannibal Sandwich' Gets Bad Review From Health Officials

PHOTO: "Cannibal" sandwiches are made with raw ground beef and onions
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Federal health officials have put out a warning against the "cannibal sandwich," a raw meat on a cracker concoction that is a popular holiday treat in Wisconsin.

The not so festive sandwich, which consists of ground beef topped with onions and served on crackers, was linked to a 2012 E. coli outbreak in the state, which was suspected of sickening 17 people and sending eight to the hospital.

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This year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has warned residents to avoid making the dish.

"We want everyone to have a wonderful holiday season and don't want anyone to be sick," said Abbey Canon, an epidemic intelligence service officer at the Wisconsin Department of Health. Canon said ground beef should be heated to an internal temperature of 160 degrees to kill off the most dangerous bacteria.

Although the dish can be found sporadically in the upper Midwest region, it is common in southern Wisconsin, where it's made as a holiday treat.

In addition to E. coli infections, eating raw beef can lead to other bacterial infections, including salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.

Raw ground beef served in a similar dish called "tiger meat" was associated with large outbreaks of foodborne illness in Wisconsin in 1972, 1978 and 1994.

In spite of the warnings, state health department officials said they had an uphill battle in stopping the "cannibal sandwich." In a health department questionnaire filled out by 15 of the 17 sickened people, six of them said they would continue to eat the holiday dish.

Of the 53 people who purchased the ground meat that was linked to the outbreak, 70 percent said on the questionnaire that they would still eat the holiday dish even though they were at risk for bacterial infections.

"Hopefully, we can change a few of those minds," Canon said.

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