In Wisconsin, raw ground beef sandwiches for supper

Yes, they can cause outbreaks. Midwesterners roll the dice

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. 

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Joe Fassler is The Counter's deputy editor. His reporting has been included in The Best American Food Writing and twice nominated for a James Beard Media Award. A 2019 - 2020 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he's the author of two books: a novel, The Sky Was Ours (forthcoming from Penguin Books), and Light the Dark: Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process.