With holiday baking season in full swing, more kids — and their parents — are likely licking the spoons as they mix up their cookie dough.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a fresh warning not to taste raw dough, but not for the reason you may think.
Raw eggs, which can contain Salmonella bacteria, usually take the blame. But flour is actually the key culprit, according to the CDC.
“Flour is typically a raw agricultural product. This means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs like Escherichia coli (E. coli),” the CDC’s site states. “Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or at other steps as flour is produced. The bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. This is why you should never taste or eat raw dough or batter — whether made from recalled flour or any other flour.
“In 2016, an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick,” the CDC points out. “Flour products have long shelf lives and could be in people’s homes for a long time. If you have any recalled flour products in your home, throw them away.”
The 2016 E. coli infections outbreak affected people in 24 states. The illnesses were tied to flour sold under several brand names, including Gold Medal, Gold Medal Wondra, and Signature Kitchens, which were recalled at the time. If you have any of these flours in your pantry from that time, or flour in a container without packaging, throw them out to stay on the safe side, the CDC advises. Then clean the container with warm, soapy water.
E. coli infections are not something you want to mess with since symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Of the 63 people infected from flour in 2016, 17 ended up in the hospital. Those infected usually get sick three to four days after ingesting the germ.
Salmonella from raw eggs is no joke, either. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Salmonella bacteria can be serious and is more dangerous for older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.
Safety tips for baking include never tasting raw dough or batter, whether you’re making cookies, pizza, biscuits, pancakes or homemade play dough or holiday ornaments. The CDC also warns against letting kids play with or eat raw dough.