Baking cookies is a great family activity for all ages during the holidays. However, this also means that the people most susceptible to food poisoning can come in direct contact with harmful bacteria.
Most only think of the dangers of raw eggs and Salmonella and avoid this with certain egg substitutes. But Salmonella isn’t the only risk.
Though tempting, raw cookie dough should not be eaten. It’s important to remember that raw flour can be just as dangerous as raw eggs. Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Harmful pathogens, like E. coli, can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or during flour production. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked.
Warnings often appear on the flaps of flour packages — “Cook before sneaking a taste,” or, “Flour is raw. Please cook fully before enjoying.” But you should still remind your family, friends and loved ones about the danger of that tempting spoon lick.
The April 23, 2021 edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC “Note from the Field” section took a look at outbreaks involving flour, including a 2019 E. coli outbreak.
It found that among 13 patients asked about flour exposures, six reported eating, licking or tasting raw homemade dough or batter during the week before illness onset. Three patients reported eating raw dough or batter made with the same grocery store brand of all-purpose flour, including a patient who reported eating raw dough at a bakery in Rhode Island. See bottom of
See if your family and friends can ace this quiz and keep safe with these tips from the FDA and CDC on baking and cooking with flour:
You’ve added a bit too much salt into your cookie recipe. Is it safe to taste cookie dough or batter before baking?
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments. Do not touch your face while handling raw flour. Try baking one to taste instead of tasting dough.
Is raw cookie dough safe for children or others to play with?
- Do not let children play with raw dough or flour. Even if they aren’t eating the dough, they may be putting their hands in their mouths after handling the dough.
Are baked goods safe to try if they’re halfway done?
- Bake or cook raw dough and batter completely before eating baked goods.
What about chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream? Can I add my cookie dough to my homemade ice cream?
- Do not use raw homemade cookie dough in ice cream. Cookie dough ice cream sold in stores contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria. You can bake your flour first and use an eggless recipe.
Can I pick out and eat chocolate chips from the cookie dough?
- Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to-eat foods until immediately before their use.
Can I let my raw batter sit out on the counter overnight to make fresh treats in the morning?
- Refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked for up to 2-4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
What must be done once the cookies are in the oven?
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs or raw dough:
- Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs or any surfaces they have touched.
- Wash bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.
Follow these tips and don’t let food poisoning interrupt your holiday fun!
Recent outbreaks linked to flour:
September 2016 — Produced at a General Mills facility in Kansas City, MO
- 63 people infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O121 or STEC O26 were reported from 24 states
- 17 ill people were hospitalized. One person developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure
July 2019 – Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour from ALDI in Rhode Island
- 21 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O26 were reported from 9 states
- Three hospitalizations
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