December 8, 2019

E.coli, Salmonella: Ground Beef Eaten Raw, 2 Outbreaks, 8 Days

An E.coli outbreak and a Salmonella outbreak were announced within eight days. They had three things in common, both were caused by contaminated ground beef, both caused illness in people who reported eating the meat raw, and in both cases, the raw meat was prepared as a “traditional” dish, although not the same one. The raw meat dishes in these outbreaks trace their roots to Europe and the Middle East.

Raw Ground BeefThe first outbreak, announced January 17, was a single-state E.coli outbreak in Wisconsin where three people ate a raw ground beef dish similar to steak tartare that is sometimes called “Tiger Meat.”  Raw beef and onions is popular among some Midwesterners, particularly those of German heritage. In 1994, more than 100 Wisconsinites contracted Salmonella poisoning after eating the mixture during a Christmas celebration. Some of those interviewed told public health investigators that the dish was a tradition brought over from their European ancestors.

The meat used to make the dish in the recent E.coli outbreak was purchased at Glenn’s Market and Catering in Watertown, Wisconsin.  After the illnesses were reported, Glenn’s issued a recall of 2,532 pounds of fresh ground beef and a gentle reminder to customers “that consuming the common holiday tradition called Tiger Meat of Raw Uncooked Beef can cause illness.”

The second outbreak, announced January 25, is a five-state Salmonella outbreak with a total of 16 cases in: Arizona (1), Illinois (2), Iowa (1), Michigan (9), and Wisconsin (3).  Seven of these people reported eating a raw beef dish at a restaurant in Maycomb County, MI. This time the dish was not Tiger Meat, but raw Kibbeh, a Middle Eastern dish made from ground meat, bulgur and minced onions. Often the meat mixture is stuffed into a croquette and fried, but sometimes it is served raw.

Like Glenn’s Market, the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that eating raw meat should be avoided as it can cause illness. But whether that is made clear to the customers at restaurants with raw meat dishes on their menus is another story. (Those who are surprised that restaurants actually serve raw meat can do a quick search on Yelp for  “raw beef” or “raw Kibbeh.”)

Of the 16 people sickened so far by the Salmonella outbreak, seven became so ill they required hospitalization. When bacteria that cause foodborne illness escape the intestines and get into the bloodstream, food poisoning infections can be deadly.

The restaurant that served the raw kibbeh got its meat from two shops and both have issues recalls. But because the outbreak  includes nine other people who did not eat at the restaurant and ate their meat cooked, another step, or step,  in tracing back the contamination is required.

Those who became ill, first developed symptoms between December 9, 2012 and January 7, 2013. They range in age from 2 to 87 years old.

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