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cookie dough

Eating raw dough or batter — whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas — could make you and your kids sick.

According to Jenny Scott, a senior advisor in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the bottom line for you and your kids is don’t eat raw dough. Even though there are websites devoted to “flour crafts,” don’t give 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 not 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 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.

Do not make homemade cookie dough ice cream either; buy commercially made products, instead. Manufacturers should use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs.

Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are diarrhea–often blood– and abdominal cramps, although most people recover within a week. But some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. HUS can occur in people of any age, but is most common in young children under 5 years, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Parents of young children should be particularly aware. For instance, if your child is in day care or kindergarten, a common pastime may be art using “play” clay that is homemade from raw dough. Even if they’re not munching on the dough, they’re putting their hands in their mouth after handling the dough. Childcare facilities and preschools should discourage the practice of playing with raw dough.

FDA offers these tips for safe food handling to keep you and your family healthy:

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 foods 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.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

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31 Comments

  1. Mike Nam Mike Nam says:

    Arial Thweatt yer gonna die

  2. I eat raw cookie dough at my own risk. I see the warning label ;) lol. Everything else, I wouldn’t touch raw.

  3. Store bought raw dough is dangerous. Heck people have been sickened from eating store bought raw fruit and vegetables. I bet making it yourself doesn’t carry the same risk :-/

  4. Ew, who eats raw pizza dough?! lol

  5. Myk Halibut Myk Halibut says:

    But GMO’s are ok..

  6. Sheila Lopez Sheila Lopez says:

    I should be dead then lol

  7. Been eating raw cookie dough for 30+ years. I’ve never had a single problem. This is the same FDA that approves of gmo’s and says fats are bad for you, right?

    • John Phelan John Phelan says:

      Been eating for over 70 years here has never made me sick always eat some when my wife makes cookies and also the dough that is left in the bread maker that we only use to make the dough.

  8. John Phelan John Phelan says:

    Been eating for over 70 years and not sick yet.

  9. Totally worth it !
    I’ve never got sick off of eating cookie dough and I’ve ate more cookie dough than cookies!

  10. Warning: FDA says you’ll crap if you eat enough!

  11. I’ve been eating raw cookie dough & cake batter almost my whole life & I’ve never been sick!!

  12. It’s bad now because the eggs are more at risk now ..

  13. No disrespect towards the people who’ve actually become sick by this.. But I’ll take my risks…. No ones stopping me from eating my cookie dough!

  14. Sean Cohen Sean Cohen says:

    But ya know cigarettes are still for sale…

  15. Matthew Loew Matthew Loew says:

    Raw cookie dough is so worth it. STFU FDA.

Leave a Comment


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