A tempting ‘cook’s perk’ for some, but raw cookie dough hasn’t had the kind of treatment that’s designed to kill germs, so may cause illnesses in people who eat it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a warning about the dangers of eating raw cookie dough, urging us to “Say no to raw dough!“.
“When you prepare homemade cookie dough, cake mixes, or even bread, you may be tempted to taste a bite before it is fully cooked,” the CDC said. “But steer clear of this temptation — eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick.”
It would be easy to just associate the health risks with the inclusion of the raw egg that’s in the raw cookie dough, as this is a well known cause of Salmonella, but it should also be pointed out that the flour itself may also present some health risks.
The flour that is contained in raw cookie dough isn’t usually treated to kill germs, such as those that can cause Escherichia coli (E. coli). It is these germs that can contaminate the grain whilst still in the field or, for that matter, at any other stage during flour production. It is only really the process of cooking the flour that kills the harmful bacteria.
In 2016 there was a serious E. coli outbreak linked to raw flour, which saw 56 people, across 24 US states, affected. No-one who became ill from the flour or flour-based products died, but one victim suffered kidney damage and 16 others were hospitalised. A number of these said they had eaten or tasted homemade batter or dough before becoming ill.
Follow safe food handling practices when baking with flour and other raw ingredients:
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter made with raw flour
- 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
- Cook or bake according to the instructions at the proper temperature and for the specified time
- Do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream*
- Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to eat-foods
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw cookie dough
- Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces that they have touched
- Wash bowls, utensils, counter-tops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water
Source: CDC – *Cookie dough ice cream sold in stores contains dough that has been treated to specifically kill harmful bacteria
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