Raw cookie dough? FDA says no

Admit it. You’ve done it a time or two. You’re baking cookies, and you scoop up a finger full of cookie dough and test it out. I mean, who doesn’t want to sample the goods? And what’s the harm, anyway? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that raw cookie dough could make you sick enough to lose your cookies.

On June 28, the FDA published a consumer update warning against consuming raw dough, but not for the reason you may think. While the risk of salmonella from eggs exists, the risk of E. coli from flour is the reason for the FDA’s warning. It’s not very often that flour is the culprit of a food recall, and many raw flour products are generally viewed as safe.

So what’s a baker to do? On top of not consuming raw dough, the FDA advises that those working with raw flour keep work surfaces and utensils clean after contact with raw dough, as well as keeping raw dough away from other foods because flour can travel easily. Here are five tips to help keep you safe while baking:

1. Wash your hands often and use clean towels
2. Keep your countertops clean
3. Don’t leave eggs out for more than two hours
4. Don’t eat raw cookie dough
5. Keep flour in a food-safe container

Now that your raw cookie dough-eating days are over, you may be wondering what this news means for no-bake treats with raw flour. Keep your apron on, because we’ve got the answer!

Dr. Londa Nwadike, assistant professor and extension food safety specialist at Kansas State University and the University of Missouri, warns that no-bake treats are not an exception. “Any raw flour, regardless of the brand, could potentially contain pathogens,” explains Dr. Nwadike. “This was true in the past and is still true today, but this recent outbreak has helped to remind us that anything with flour in it that has not been baked could potentially make people sick.”

Ready-to-bake store-bought cookie dough is also at risk. “That dough was not intended to be consumed raw, so it should be cooked for safety,” Dr. Nwadike says. “When will the madness end?,” you’re probably asking yourself right about now. According to Dr. Nwadike, products that contain cookie dough in a ready-to-eat state, like cookie dough ice cream, have been heat-treated before being sold and are therefore safe to consume. Score one for the bakers!

While there’s always a risk when consuming raw dough, kids under the age of five, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk for hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure associated with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infection. “Kids are generally more susceptible to foodborne illness as their immune systems aren’t as developed,” explains Dr. Nwadike. “They may be more likely to put their hands in their mouth after touching raw flour.”

As much as you may enjoy eating raw cookie dough, you should avoid the temptation and practice some patience to prevent potential foodborne illness.

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