Can You Eat Raw Cookie Dough?

Learn about a surprising potential source of food poisoning
Girl eating cookie dough while cooking with mom

It’s difficult to resist sneaking a couple tastes of that delicious raw cookie dough straight from the spoon or mixing bowl.

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Unfortunately, there’s danger in that deliciousness. It’s a wise food safety practice to hold off sampling your cookies until they’re baked, says dietitian Andrea Dunn, RD

Contaminated flour can hurt you

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

Flour is made from grain that comes directly from the field and 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,” says Dunn. “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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against making homemade play dough with flour for your children. Even if your children don’t eat the dough, it’s possible they will put their hands in their mouths after handling the dough. That includes dough for crafts like holiday ornaments, too. 

Raw eggs pose a risk

There’s a risk for illness whenever there are raw eggs involved. Eggs called for in many cookie recipes can pose a safety hazard in the raw dough, and children, pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems 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.

“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. The illness can last four to seven days and for some people, diarrhea that comes with it 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,” says Dunn “Like E. coli, the process of cooking kills the salmonella bacteria with high heat.”

Snack on healthier food

As much as everyone loves the delicious taste, munching on raw cookie dough can make you sick and there is no nutritional value to it, either. If you love to snack (who doesn’t?), try to find an alternative that packs more of a nutritional punch.

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. These little snacks are easy to make and don’t pose a risk to your health.

“You get that same, nice cookie dough texture without the risk of food poisoning,” she says.

If you’re tempted to sample the dough during the cookie-making process, consider chewing a stick of gum while baking. Having something already in your mouth may stop you from putting the dough automatically into your mouth.

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