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It can be hard to resist plopping a glob of raw chocolate-chip cookie dough in your mouth when you’re baking cookies. Personally, I enjoy the dough more than the cookies. But unless you want to risk getting super sick, you should refrain from licking that spoon covered in raw dough or any other raw batter that contains flour.
Although you may think it’s the raw egg in dough that makes people sick — and indeed, consuming raw eggs carries a risk of salmonella — it’s actually raw flour that’s the latest concern.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation found that consuming or handling the contaminated raw flour was the common denominator in a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 outbreak that has infected 38 people in 20 states, 10 of whom have been hospitalized.
The symptoms of E. coli O121 are diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramping. Severe cases of the illness can result in kidney failure.
The CDC says flour produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri, was the “likely source” of the outbreak. As a result of the investigation, Generals Mills has recalled 10 million pounds of these flours sold under the following brand names: Gold Medal Flour, Signature Kitchen Flour and Gold Medal Wondra flour.
Warns the FDA:
“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.
The FDA is also warning parents not to let their kids play with raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour because E. coli bacteria can be absorbed through their hands.
Do you eat raw dough or batter? Did you know flour can contain disease-causing bacteria? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.