August 14, 2022

CDC: Don’t Eat Raw Ground Meat!

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for this week focuses on the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in December 2012 associated with seasonal consumption of raw ground beef. So-called “cannibal sandwiches” or “tiger meat” are made from raw ground beef, served on rye bread with onions. This is a traditional seasonal holiday specialty in certain regions of the upper Midwest.

Raw Ground BeefAll of the 17 patients’ illnesses were traced back to raw ground beef purchased from a single market. Overall, more than 50 people have been sickened from eating raw ground beef over the years in Wisconsin. The market, Glenn’s Market and Catering of Watertown, recalled 2,532 pounds of the raw ground beef after people started getting sick.

Of the 17 patients (four were confirmed with the outbreak strain of bacteria; 13 were probable cases), 13 were female. The median age was 46 years, with an age range of 1 year to 82 years. No hospitalizations or deaths occurred. Fourteen patients ate raw ground beef served as tiger meat. Three had exposure to raw ground beef from cross-contamination. E. coli O157:H7 isolates from four patients and two raw ground beef samples, one in the original packaging, had PFGE and MLVA patterns indistinguishable from the outbreak strain.

The CDC says, “discouraging this tradition requires regional targeted consumer and retailer education to ensure understanding of the potential for severe illness associated with raw ground beef consumption. Retailers in this region should be encouraged to directly discourage their customers from consuming raw ground beef. To prevent illness, ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, as measured with a food thermometer, before consumption.”

But the investigation found that 98% of the 56 people interviewed consume raw ground beef during special occasions. Of those people, 91% were aware that consuming raw ground beef could cause illness, but only 41% thought that illness could be severe. And 40% of the ill persons and 70% of the non-ill persons said they would continue to eat raw ground beef in the future.

An E. coli O157:H7 illness can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that can lead to kidney failure and death. Other complications from this infection include stroke, heart attack, hypertension, seizures, blindness, paralysis, respiratory failure, liver damage, and pancreatitis. Children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to HUS.

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