You’ve seen the warnings on those rolled up packages of raw cookie dough.
Do not eat before cooking.
For many of us, raw cookie dough was a rare treat growing up. We can remember sitting around the table while mom or dad mixed up a batch, eager to “clean out” the bowl when they were done.
Unfortunately, concerns about E. Coli and other contaminants that have the potential to make us sick have prompted warnings about enjoying this indulgence. Maybe your parents even warned you way back then that it wasn’t a good idea.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has weighed in on this warning.
In a public advisory released on June 28, 2016, the FDA warned that eating raw dough or batter—whether it’s for cookies or other baked items like bread, pizza, or tortillas—could make you sick.
Talk about a downer, right?
Well, we wanted to help. We’ve got more information about the potential dangers, some solutions to help keep your family safe and a tasty edible cookie dough recipe for you to try!
So take a deep breath and relax. You don’t have to give up your favorite guilty treat just yet!
Though the FDA has only recently issued a public warning about the issue, contaminated cookie dough has been a concern for years.
Back in 2011, for example, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated a multistate outbreak of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), a cause of bacterial gastrointestinal illness, or food poisoning. A total of 77 patients were sickened between March 16 and July 8, 2009, across 30 states. A total of 35 of these were hospitalized.
They tracked the hospitalized cases back to their source and found that 94 percent of the patients had consumed ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough. No other reported exposures were associated with illness. The researchers suspected that one of the ingredients used to produce the dough was contaminated—most likely, the flour.
Surprised? You may have suspected the eggs, which can also be a source of contamination, but flour was the main suspected ingredient in this case.
How is it that flour could become contaminated?
Raw Dough Could Contain Contaminated Flour
Unlike many food ingredients, including pasteurized eggs, sugar, baking soda, and margarine, flour doesn’t go through a “kill step” to get rid of microorganisms and pathogens that might be present. These pathogens are killed during cooking or baking, but if you consume raw dough, you are exposed to any that may be present.
Flour comes from grains, and these are pulled directly from the field without being treated for bacteria or other contaminants. Whatever comes into contact with the grains outdoors could still remain once they are milled into flour.
In fact, in the study mentioned above, researchers suggested that manufacturers consider using heat-treated or pasteurized flour in read-to-cook or ready-to-bake foods.
“People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough due to the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella,” the FDA states. “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.”
Once the products are baked, they are no longer a threat. Baking kills any potential microorganisms that could make you sick.
But don’t forget the eggs! They can still be a source of contamination as well.
The FDA also warns parents of young children to be particularly careful, and to be aware of “play” clay that is homemade from raw dough. It’s often used at day cares or kindergartens, and though children may not necessarily eat it, they do handle it, and may then put their hands in their mouth afterward.
Tips to Keep Your Family Safe
Here are some safety tips to consider, to keep you and your family safe.
- Don’t eat commercially prepared (or standard homemade) raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter product.
- Be sure to cook any products containing flour for the proper amount of time.
- Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough.
- Keep dough and flour away from other foods while cooking.
- Don’t expect gluten-free flour to be safer—it’s still made from crops that may be contaminated.
- Always keep raw dough products chilled as directed until baked.
- Enjoy raw cookie dough made by companies who use pasteurized eggs (or no eggs at all) and heat-treated flour. This is the type of flour used to make cookie-dough ice cream, for example, and is considered safe to eat.
- To make your own safer cookie dough, use heat-treated flour (or other types of flours such as oat) and pasteurized eggs.
Here is a safe edible cookie dough recipe made with oat flour. We got this recipe from Show Me the Yummy. It looked so tasty we just had to share it with you!
- ½ cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅓ cup organic sugar
- ½ cup organic brown sugar, packed
- ¾ teaspoon organic vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons organic milk, room temperature
- 1 and ½ cup homemade oat flour, directions below (you'll need about 2 cups organic old fashioned oats)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅔ cups organic chocolate chips
Cream together softened butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and milk until fluffy, about 60 seconds. Beat in oat flour and salt. Once combined, stir in chocolate chips. Serve immediately or store in the fridge, covered, for later!
Homemade Oat Flour:
Place about 2 cups organic old fashioned oats in food processor. Process until it resembles fine flour. Measure out 1 and ½ cups and proceed with recipe above!
FDA – Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick
IDSA – Ready-to-Bake Cookie Dough not Ready-to-Eat, Study E.coli Outbreak Finds
Oxford Journals – A Novel Vehicle for Transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to Humans: Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Associated With Consumption of Ready-to-Bake Commercial Prepackaged Cookie Dough—United States, 2009
FDA – Gold Medal, Gold Medal Wondra, and Signature Kitchens Flour Recalled Due to Possible E. coli O121 Contamination
The Blaze – Government tells Americans to stop eating cookie dough
USA Today – Is any cookie dough safe to eat?