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April 03, 2023

Why you should stop eating raw cookie dough and cake batter

Though they're quite tasty, these uncooked baking materials may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning

Prevention Illness
Raw Cookie Dough Olivia Oliver Design/Unsplash

Though raw cookie dough is tasty, it is unsafe to eat, because it has not been treated to kill germs like Salmonella or E. coli. Children are at higher risk of serious illness.

It's a common scenario: You are enjoying an afternoon in the kitchen baking cookies and the leftover batter in the bowl is just calling your name. It couldn't hurt to have just a spoonful or two, right?

Though many of us remain unscathed after tasting raw cake batter or cookie dough, health experts warn against against eating uncooked flour, dough or batter. An ongoing Salmonella outbreak tied to raw flour underscores the dangers.

The outbreak has caused 12 illnesses and three hospitalizations in 11 states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The specific brand of flour that was contaminated has not yet been determined. 

Federal health officials are reminding people to avoid eating or playing with raw or uncooked dough or batter because it hasn't been treated to kill germs like Salmonella or E. coli, which can cause gastrointestinal illnesses and food poisoning. This includes dough and batter for pie crusts, tortillas, pizza, biscuits and pancakes – not just cookies and cake. Even just a taste may contain enough germs to make someone sick. 

When baking, it is important to follow the recipe or package directions closely, particularly the temperature and cooking time, health experts say. Also, be sure to wash your hands, and the utensils used while preparing batter or dough with warm, soapy water. Disinfect any countertops used while handling raw flour, eggs or dough. Children should not handle or play with raw dough, including raw dough used for crafts. 

The CDC also warns against making milkshakes with products that contain raw flour or using raw, homemake cookie dough in ice cream.

As for edible cookie dough and browning batter products, check the label to make sure they are intended to be eaten without being baked or cooked. Many such products are made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs, or without eggs. 

Food poisoning can be caused by many germs, but it is most commonly the result of Salmonella or E. coli bacteria. 

Salmonella is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals. It can cause diarrhea, fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, chills, headache and blood in stool. Symptoms usually start six hours to six days after people swallow the bacteria. Most people experience a mild illness that lasts for up to a week, but serious infections can develop that require medical attention or, in some cases, hospitalization.

People can get sick from Salmonella after eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water, or by touching infected animals or their feces.

Children age 5 and under, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of a serious Salmonella illness. Complications include urinary, blood, bone and joint infections. In some cases, the infection may spread to the nervous system.

An E. coli infection causes stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloody stools and vomiting. Symptoms usually start three to four days after people consume the germ; they usually go away within a week. Some people may develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure, stroke and death.

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