Why Eggs Are Not the Only Danger in Raw Cookie Dough

Learn about a surprising potential source of food poisoning
chocolate chip cookie dough

When you’re making cookies, it’s hard to resist the temptation to sneak a couple of tastes of raw dough from the mixing bowl, the spoon or the beaters on the electric mixer.

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The taste of raw cookie dough is so popular, it’s become an ice cream flavor. But there’s danger in that deliciousness. It’s a wise food safety practice to hold off sampling your cookies until they are baked.

Contaminated flour

Many people are aware that there’s danger in eating the uncooked eggs that so often are in raw cookie dough, but did you know that the unbaked flour in cookie dough also poses a risk?

Flour sometimes is contaminated with harmful strains of E.coli bacteria, which also can cause gastrointestinal distress or other health complications, says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Flour is made from grain that comes directly from the field, the FDA says. The fields may contain animal waste, which can contaminate the grain with bacteria. When the grain is harvested and milled into flour, it typically is not treated to kill bacteria.

Common steps during food preparation and/or processing that kill bacteria include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving and frying. But raw dough undergoes none of these steps, and so the dough can be contaminated.

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The risk of exposure to E.coli in unbaked flour is so great that the FDA warns against making homemade play dough with flour for your children. Even if your children don’t eat the dough, they likely will put their hands in their mouths after handling the dough, the FDA says.

Raw eggs risk

Many people are aware that the eggs called for in many cookie recipes can pose a safety hazard in the raw dough. But did you know that children and older adults are at greater risk for poisoning from salmonella bacteria that raw eggs can harbor?

This makes it imperative for adults baking with children to refrain from offering licks from the spoons, beaters or bowls, says Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian Lindsay Malone, MS, RD, CSO, LD.

“When you’re making cookies, often the recipe calls for raw eggs,” she says. “Whenever you consume raw eggs, you increase your risk of salmonella poisoning.”

Salmonella poisoning usually causes fever,  stomach cramps and diarrhea that develop 12 to 72 hours after consuming the contaminated food. Illness lasts four to seven days. For some people, the diarrhea can be severe or last longer.

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“When there’s a risk for salmonella, you really want to be cautious and take steps to avoid it as much as possible,” Ms. Malone says.

Like E. coli, the process of cooking kills the salmonella bacteria with high heat.

Snack on healthier food

Aside from the fact that raw cookie dough can make you sick, it’s not full of anything that’s good for you anyways. So it’s better to find an alternative that packs more of a nutritional punch, Ms. Malone says.

If you’ve got a hankering for something moist, sweet, thick and chewy, look online for recipes for no-bake energy bites made of dates, cashews or coconut, Ms. Malone says.

“You get that same, nice cookie dough texture, but you have something that has significantly more nutrient value,” she says.

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