FDA: It's tempting, but don't eat cookie dough this holiday seas - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

FDA: It's tempting, but don't eat cookie dough this holiday season - or ever

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Do you find it difficult to resist sneaking a pinch or two of raw dough when making cookies? 

While it's one of the tastiest things about baking, it could also leave you very ill. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is one again warning against eating raw cookie dough, or anything with raw flour because it could give you E.coli. Last year, dozens of people became ill with a strain of the bacteria. The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the patients was made with flour found in subsequent tests by the FDA to have the same bacterium that was making people sick.

Ten million pounds of flour were recalled, including unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising varieties. 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. Center for Disease Control advises restaurants not to give customers raw dough.

Why Flour?

People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough because of 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 steps to kill bacteria that cause infections include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving, and frying. But with raw dough, no kill step has been taken.

Symptoms and Who Gets Sick

Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli include diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps, although most people recover within a week. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure. 

Handle Foods Safely

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.
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