The large E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to recalled General Mills flour sickened 63 people in 24 states this year. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a complication of that illness. And many of those sickened got sick because they ate raw cookie dough.
So the CDC is warning consumers not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mixes, or bread this holiday season, even if you are using pasteurized eggs. Raw flour is a raw agricultural product that has not been treated to kill pathogenic bacteria.
And since flour has a long shelf life, that recalled General Mills flour could still be in people’s homes. Please check the list of recalled products and make sure you don’t have one of those flour types in your pantry. The recall was expanded once, and there have been some secondary recalls of products that were made with that flour.
And if you don’t use pasteurized eggs, raw eggs can contain Salmonella that can make you sick. Eggs are only safe to eat when they are thoroughly and completely cooked.
Follow safe food handling practices when you are baking and cooking with flour, eggs, and other raw ingredients. Never taste or eat any raw dough or batter, whether you are making cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour such as holiday ornaments or homemade play dough. Don’t let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough used for crafts.
Always bake or cook raw dough and batter before eating. Never make milkshakes with products such as cake mix that contain raw flour. Don’t use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream. (The cookie dough in ice cream sold at retail has been treated to kill bacteria.)
Always follow the recipe to make sure that you are baking and cooking at the proper temperature and for the correct time. Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready to eat foods. Flour can be difficult to keep track of, since it’s a powder that is light enough to float. Refrigerate products containing raw eggs or raw dough until they are cooked or baked.
Finally, clean up your kitchen and yourself thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough. Wash your hands with soap and water after handling flour or raw eggs or any surfaces those ingredients may have touched. And wash bowls, utensils, countertops, the kitchen sink, and the faucet, and other surfaces with hot water and soap.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, possible nausea and vomiting, and severe abdominal cramps. They usually appear 6 hours to two days after eating food contaminated with the pathogenic bacteria. The symptoms of HUS include little to no urine output, easy bruising, lethargy, a skin rash, and bleeding from the nose or mouth. Anyone suffering from any of these symptoms should see a doctor immediately.