This holiday season: No raw cookie dough, and no raw hamburger

We go over it every year. When you make cookie dough for your holiday cookies, wait until you’ve baked it before eating.

We know, we know. Cookie dough is delicious. Delicious, but dangerous. A number of ingredients can cause foodborne illness. Raw eggs are associated with Salmonella, and raw flour, which is usually not processed to kill bacteria, has been linked to E. coli. The high heat from cooking the dough kills off the bacteria.

Around the holidays, when household cookie-making peaks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues a warning reminding people of the risks associated with eating raw dough. But this year, authorities are issuing a warning about a decidedly stranger holiday treat.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published a statement on “cannibal sandwiches,” a holiday delicacy favored in parts of the Midwest (particularly Wisconsin). The dish is made from raw hamburger meat mixed with onions and spread on crackers or rye bread. It’s likely inspired by the German “Mett,” a raw minced meat spread often mixed with onions and spices.

“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,” USDA said.

Instead, USDA offers an alternative recipe for those who enjoy cannibal sandwiches as a time-honored tradition: just cook the ground beef mixture to a safe temperature.

“You may be surprised to find that it tastes better when cooked!” USDA said. “Not to mention, you won’t be risking a trip to the hospital with every mouthful.”

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, eight outbreaks associated with raw meat have sickened people in the past three decades, including one in 1994 that affected more than 150 people.

“Don’t become a statistic this year,” USDA said. “Raw meat is never safe to consume.”

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