FDA: Raw dough’s a raw deal and could make you sick

Image courtesy FDA

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer alert that people should not be eating raw dough.

That means cookie dough, bread, pasta, even the flour based clay children make ornaments from during Christmas.

The FDA says that eating raw dough or batter could make you sick and advises people to not eat it.

The ingredient that drove this alert may be surprising to some. It’s the flour.

The FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local officials investigated an outbreak of infections from a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121. Dozens of people became infected from eating raw dough across the country.

The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the people infected was made with flour produced in a Kansas City, Missouri, General Mills facility.

The company voluntary recalled 10 million pounds of flour sold under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen’s, and Gold Medal Wondra. Because flour has a long shelf life, you should check your flour and throw it away if you have any of the recalled items.


From the FDA:

Why Flour?

People often understand the dangers of 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/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.

Symptoms and Who Gets Sick

Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are diarrhea (often bloody) 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). 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.

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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