Consumer update: Pass on the cookie dough
Eating raw cookie dough normally comes with a warning due to eggs, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns dough lovers about another problem: flour.
Eating raw dough or batter—whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas—could make you, and your kids, sick, says Jenny Scott, a senior advisor in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
According to Scott, the bottom line for you and your kids is don’t eat raw dough. And even though there are websites devoted to “flour crafts,” don’t give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with.
Flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria that cause disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local officials, is investigating an outbreak of infections that illustrates the dangers of eating raw dough. Dozens of people across the country have been sickened by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121.
The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the patients was made with General Mills flour produced in a Kansas City, Missouri, facility. Subsequent tests by the FDA linked bacteria in a flour sample to bacteria from people who had become ill.
General Mills conducted a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour sold under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen’s, and Gold Medal Wondra. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising flours. Flour has a long shelf life, and many people store bags of flour for a long time. If you have any of these recalled items in your home, you should throw them away.
Some of the recalled flours had been sold to restaurants that allow children to play with dough made from the raw flour while waiting for their meals. CDC is advising restaurants not to give customers raw dough.
People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough due to the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella. However, consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E. coli in a product like flour.
“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.
Common “kill steps” applied during food preparation and/or processing (so-called because they kill bacteria that cause infections) include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving, and frying. But with raw dough, no kill step has been used.
And don’t make homemade cookie dough ice cream either. If that’s your favorite flavor, buy commercially made products. Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs.
-U.S. Food and Drug Administration