Health Department Warns Against ‘Cannibal’ Sandwich Tradition in Wisconsin


There are some strange culinary traditions here in America, thanks to our nation’s long history of rags-to-riches stories.

America is the melting pot, after all, and the people who came to her shores decades ago did so poor and hungry.  And, when you’re poor enough and hungry enough, your ingenuity increases tenfold.  You learn new ways to stretch a meal or a dollar, and sometimes both in a day.  We invented new quasi-delicacies as we forged our way though this nation of toil and trouble.

Some of these foods have now become staples of our diet, like hot dogs and hamburgers.

Others, however, have been banished to the far flung regions of Wisconsin to be hidden away from the civilized world.  These are the traditional foods that have the Cheese State’s health department concerned.

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.

The warning came complete with a recipe for a much more traditional preparation.

“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.”

There have been several bacterial outbreaks stemming from the tradition in recent decades, and the tradition is believed to be practiced by perhaps hundreds of families in Wisconsin.