UPDATED: FDA Continues to Warn Against Eating Raw Dough for Cookies and Other Products

Bacteria that may exist in raw dough products could cause severe, potentially life-threatening illness

UPDATED: FDA Continues to Warn Against Eating Raw Dough for Cookies and Other Products
Image: Pixabay
July 1, 2016

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to warn consumers against eating any raw dough for cookies or other products before the dough is properly cooked. The cooking process kills harmful bacteria—such as salmonella and E. coli—that may exist in the raw dough.

Why is raw dough dangerous? People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough due to the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with salmonella. However, even if raw eggs are not present, consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E. coli in a product like flour.

"Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," says Leslie Smoot, in a written statement. Smoot is a senior advisor in FDA's Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods.

The FDA along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, is currently investigating an outbreak of infections that has resulted in dozens of infections across the country.

The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the patients was made with General Mills flour produced in a Kansas City, MO facility. Subsequent tests by the FDA linked bacteria in a flour sample to bacteria from people who had become ill.

In response, General Mills conducted a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour sold under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen's, and Gold Medal Wondra.

Some of the recalled flours had been sold to restaurants that allow children to play with dough made from the raw flour while waiting for their meals. CDC is advising restaurants not to give customers raw dough.

If you have eaten raw dough products and are experiencing stomach cramps, fever, vomiting or diarrhea, contact your health care professional immediately. Anyone, of any age or health condition, could get extremely sick—or even die—from potential bacterial contamination associated with consuming raw dough products.

People with weaker immune systems, such as young children, the elderly, and people with diseases that weaken the immune system or who are on medicines that suppress the immune system, are especially susceptible to illness stemming from bacteria that may exist in raw dough.

Pregnant women also need to be particularly careful to follow cooking directions on packages, since some bacteria are very harmful or deadly to unborn babies.

The FDA recommends following these safe food-handling practices:

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough or any other raw dough product that's supposed to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that might be present from spreading.
  • Follow label directions to chill products promptly after purchase and after using them.