Whenever we make cookies, more batter seems to end up in our mouths than on the baking sheet.
But sadly, eating raw cookie dough can make us deathly ill. Literally. People have died from it.
“Raw cookie dough is not ready to eat, it is ready to bake,” the CDC’s Dr. Karen Neil told WebMD. “You shouldn’t eat raw cookie dough, regardless of who makes it.”
The FDA warned Tuesday against eating raw dough amid an E. coli outbreak that has caused 38 illnesses in 20 states.
The outbreak started in December 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined at least half of those who fell ill made something at home with flour. Subsequent tests linked the outbreak with General Mills flour produced in Missouri, and the company issued a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour.
In 2009, an E. coli outbreak was linked to Toll House cookie dough. According to the CDC, 77 people in 30 states were sickened, and 35 of them were hospitalized. One woman, Linda Rivera, developed flu-like symptoms that worsened into septic shock and organ failure. She was essentially bedridden before her death in 2013 — all because she took what her son described as “a couple bites” of raw prepacked cookie dough.
Before she died, Rivera reached a settlement with Nestlé, which owns Toll House. The food giant also recalled 3.6 million packages of its chocolate chip cookie dough. Food Safety News reported that E. coli outbreak was also eventually linked to contaminated flour within the batter.
While those incidents are over, the consequences of eating dough did not end with them.
“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” said Leslie Smoot, a senior advisor in the FDA’s Office of Food Safety.
The bacteria is killed during cooking or processing through boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or frying. However, raw dough does not go through any of those “kill steps,” according to the FDA.
The effects of foodborne illnesses are especially bad in young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.
For anyone who still hopes to use raw cookie dough in something like homemade cookie dough ice cream, authorities suggest using commercially made dough.
“Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs,” FDA officials said.
The FDA released the following tips for handling raw flour:
- 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 food 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.
(H/T: MUNCHIES, Cox Media Group National Content Desk)