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There's a scary bacteria in raw cookie dough — and, no, we're not talking about salmonella

Here's another reason why you should stay away from raw cookie dough.
Credit: Nick Ares, Flickr, Creative Commons

Just about everyone enjoys baked goods, but if you’re thinking about nibbling on some raw cookie dough when you’re preparing to bake some sweet treats, you may want to think twice about it.

While many people already avoid eating raw cookie dough because of the raw eggs, which may contain traces of salmonella and could potentially make you sick, research has some bad news for all of us: that's not the only bacteria lurking there. Apparently raw flour is also out to ruin your cookie dough snacking. Consider it on team raw egg because raw flour has also shown to cause bacteria that can make you sick.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows raw flour can carry E. coli — a nasty bacteria that can cause a world of intestinal problems for you if ingested. Most people think this bacteria is only found in meats and other moist environments such as greens, but research has found E. coli can be found in raw flour, too.

According to the study an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli was spread across several states in 2016 through flour products. The New England Journal of Medicine reported a total of 56 different cases from December 21, 2015 to September 6, 2016 in 24 states across the country. Although no deaths were reported, 17 people needed to be hospitalized. Over 10 million pounds of flour were recalled last year as a result of the outbreak. Flour products from General Mills, Gold Medal Wondra and Signature Kitchen were included in the massive recall.

Despite the outbreak being over, experts still want people to be aware that these types of bacteria can be lurking in raw flour and other foods. And when it comes to the holiday season, more people are using raw flour to bake from scratch. Although it’s tempting to lick the mixing spoon or sample a bit of cookie dough before putting the goodies in the oven, experts want you to know it may not be a good idea.

“We’re not trying to ruin people’s holidays but we want them to be aware of the risks,” said Samuel J. Crowe, the lead author of the study and an epidemiologist with the division of food-borne, waterborne and environmental diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the New York Times.

“The bacteria is not uniformly distributed in a two-and-a-half pound bag of flour,” Crowe said. “A small amount could get you really sick. I’ve had E. coli and salmonella and it’s pretty darn unpleasant,” he added.

Symptoms of  E. coli infection

Some of the symptoms of an E. coli infection include: Nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, dehydration and bloody diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms after handling flour products, you probably should see a doctor immediately.

How to avoid contracting E. coli from flour

Dr. Marguerite A. Neill, an associate professor of medicine at Brown University Medical school and expert on food-borne illnesses told the New York Times the best way to avoid E. coli from flour products is to make sure you wash your hands in hot, soapy water after handling it.

Is it okay to eat cookie dough ice cream?

If you enjoy eating cookie dough ice cream, there’s good news. Commercial cookie dough used in ice cream or packaged refrigerated cookie dough is alright to eat. After an E. coli outbreak in 2009, flour used in cookie dough products found at supermarkets were pasteurized and treated with heat to kill of any possibility of contamination. So, it’s safe for you to make a late night jaunt to your bodega for your favorite brand of cookie dough ice cream.

 
 
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