If you’re one of the many who often sneak bites of cookie batter while forming little mounds of the sticky, sweet stuff for baking, government scientists have a message for you. Stop it now!
A new report shows there may be some nasty germs lurking in ready-to-bake cookie dough.
“What our report shows is that you shouldn’t eat cookie dough raw, no matter where it comes from,” said the report’s lead author Dr. Karen Neil, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s supposed to be baked.”
Neil and her colleagues concluded that raw, ready-to-bake cookie dough was what caused 77 people in 30 states to become ill, 35 of whom became so sick that they needed to be hospitalized.
After learning about the outbreak, the researchers were able to track down the culprit by comparing the eating habits of 36 healthy volunteers to 36 people sickened by a deadly strain of E coli bacteria in 2009. Raw cookie dough consumption was the thing all 36 had in common.
When the researchers visited manufacturing plants where the cookie batter was being made their suspicions were confirmed: they found E coli in the samples they collected at the plants, according to the report which was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Despite an exhaustive investigation, Neil and her colleagues still aren’t able to say which of the ingredients, or what part of the manufacturing process, led to the contamination of the cookie dough. It’s possible, Neil said, that flour might have been the problem.
Flour, she explained, doesn’t go through the kind of special processing to kill off pathogens that ingredients like pasteurized eggs, molasses, sugar, baking soda, and margarine do.
Neil’s investigation ultimately led to the recall of 3.6 million packages of cookie dough. The manufacturer of the dough isn’t named in the report.
If you’re a fan of raw cookie dough and are wondering why it is that you can eat cookie dough ice cream, Neil explained that the preparation process for the dough in ice cream is different from the product that is sold as “ready-to-bake.”
“The cookie dough in ice cream was meant to be consumed raw,” she said. “It’s formulated as a ready-to-eat product. The cookie dough that is labeled “ready-to-bake” in the refrigerator section of the grocery store – or even the dough that you make at home – should be cooked before you eat it.”
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