With each holiday season, there are hundreds of people in the Midwest who are sickened after eating cannibal sandwiches – a dish featuring raw ground beef, often seasoned with spices and onions and served on bread or a cracker. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services stated that there have been eight outbreaks in that state linked to the consumption of raw ground beef since 1986. The dish, also known as “tiger meat,” or “steak tartare,” is dangerous because it is uncooked, meaning it can still contain harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, which are only killed by cooking ground beef to 160°F.
Don’t become a statistic this year. Raw meat is never safe to consume. Make sure that any meat products you consume are cooked to the proper internal temperature listed below:
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, chops and roasts): 145°F with a three minute rest.
- Ground beef, pork, lamb and veal: 160°F.
- Poultry (whole or ground): 165°F.
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. 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.
If you decide to make this delicious alternative and transport it to a holiday party or get-together, make sure it stays hot in transit. Keep it in an insulated container. If possible, use a chafing dish or slow cooker to keep the meat hot at the gathering. And never leave it out at room temperature for more than two hours — doing so may cause bacteria to multiply rapidly. If there are any leftovers, get them into the refrigerator within that two-hour timeframe or discard them.
If you have questions about how to prepare a safe alternative to cannibal sandwiches, or any other holiday cooking, USDA has resources to help. You can speak to a food safety expert by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
You can also download the FoodKeeper app, available for both Android and iOS devices, which is a quick and easy resource you can use at home to check storage times and preparation tips for more than 500 food items.