The hazards of raw cookie dough
Just in time for the cookie-baking frenzy of the holidays, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a consumer warning about the health hazards of eating raw cookie dough.
This didn’t seem like new news to me. We’ve all heard for years that we shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough because eggs can carry the Salmonella bacteria.
But this new warning is not about the eggs. It’s about the flour.
Raw or uncooked flour may harbor an even worse bacteria—Escherichia coli, aka E. coli.
“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” says Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., a senior advisor in FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods. So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.
The CDC reports outbreaks of “dozens” of people getting sick from eating raw cookie dough.
One outbreak in 2016 involved the Gold Medal brand of flour, which is the brand I normally buy. Last week I opened a new bag and was surprised to see it carried a warning label about eating uncooked flour.
Now I know why.
Protect yourself from raw cookie dough!
I confess: I like licking dough off the spoon when I make cookies. I guess I’m just a risk taker 😉
BUT, I would definitely think again when it comes to children under the age of 5, or anyone with a weak immune system.
Salmonella and especially E. coli can make people very sick, and small children are most at risk.
And it’s not just cookie or bread dough that can be hazardous. I used to make homemade play dough for my son using flour, salt and water. It was salty and probably tasted yucky (I never tried), but that didn’t stop him from putting it in his mouth.
The FDA offers these tips for safe food handling to keep you and your family healthy:
- Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
- Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
- Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily due to its powdery nature.
- Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.
Commercial dough is safer
I know there are lots of recipes for raw cookie dough or cookie dough ice cream on the internet, but don’t use them. Opt for commercial cookie dough and ice creams.
According the the FDA, these manufacturers are required to use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs.
And if you just can’t get enough raw cookie dough, be on the lookout for a new type of store coming to a town near you!
My son lives in Portland, OR, and he told me about The Cookie Dough Cafe. Instead of serving up scoops of ice cream, it serves up scoops of different flavors of cookie dough. Doesn’t that sound amazing? You can get a cookie dough sandwich made from a scoop of raw cookie dough smushed between two cookies.
On it’s website, the cafe assures customers that all its cookie dough is made without eggs, and “all ingredients (including the flour) in our delicious, homemade recipes are safe to consume unbaked.”
Good to know.