While the holidays are a great time for joining with the family to cook and eat together, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning the public against consuming raw cookie dough, which can contain bacteria that can cause disease.
According to the CDC, while the flour used to make cookie dough doesn’t look like raw food, typically it is. The steps used in processing flour, like grinding grain and bleaching, do not kill germs like Escherichia coli (E. coli).
The warning includes other uncooked doughs made with flour — whether used for cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits or pancakes. However, cookie dough ice cream sold in stores contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria.
While the symptoms of E. coli can vary, they often appear three to four days after ingestion and can include diarrhea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps. There have been two outbreaks of E. coli infections linked to raw flour since 2016, making more than 80 people sick.
Most people recover within a week. However, some develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death (Read more about the effects of this disease in our article, “Allen & Allen Attorneys File $75 M Lawsuit Against Target For Food Contamination.”)
When baking with flour this holiday season, the CDC encourages people to follow these safe food handling practices:
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter.
- Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
- Bake or cook raw dough and batter, such as cookie dough and cake mix, before eating.
- Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
- Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
- Do not use raw homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
- Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods. Because flour is a powder, it can spread easily.
- Follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked.
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough.
To avoid consuming contaminated flour, check your pantry to see if any flour products have been recalled in recent years, and if so, throw them away.