The Real Reason You Should Never Eat Raw Cookie Dough

The Real Reason You Should Never Eat Raw Cookie Dough

November 2, 2019 90 By William Morgan


Licking the spoon is the best part
of baking cookies.
But it’s a bad idea.
Because eating raw cookie
dough really can make you sick,
and not just because it contains raw eggs.
In 2009, over 77 people
across 30 states got food poisoning
after eating prepackaged raw cookie dough.
Many experienced vomiting
and bloody diarrhea,
and some had severe kidney damage.
In the end, Nestlé had to
recall 3.6 million packages
of its refrigerated cookie dough.
And in 2016, another group got sick
after eating raw homemade cookie dough
made from General Mills products.
But despite what you’d expect,
the culprit wasn’t salmonella in the eggs.
It was a shiga toxin-producing
E. coli in the flour,
the same type that sometimes finds its way
into romaine lettuce and hamburger meat.
In fact, the CDC
estimates it’s responsible
for 265,000 illnesses,
3,600 hospitalizations,
and 30 deaths in the
United States every year.
Now, normally E. coli likes to
bunker down in moist places.
That’s why scientists were surprised
when it turned up in flour.
And even today, it’s a mystery
as to how the E. coli got
there in the first place,
or how it survived in the
flour’s dry environment.
The problem is that the
bacteria could have infiltrated
the flour during any step of
the manufacturing process.
It might have snuck onto
the wheat from animal poop,
or jumped to the flour from a contaminated
processing equipment.
There’s really no way to know for sure.
Now, just to be clear,
although flour was the culprit
in this case, raw eggs can
still be just as dangerous.
In fact, the FDA estimates that every year
contaminated eggs cause
79,000 food-borne illnesses
and 30 deaths in the United States.
With that in mind, the CDC warns
against eating any raw cookie dough.
But, there’s good news.
Although, yes, there’s
a risk your cookie dough
is contaminated, it’s
a pretty minimal one.
Many bakers, for example,
taste test all the time,
no worse for wear.
Plus, a study found that
over half of college students
ate unbaked cookie dough, and
they lived to tell the tale.
Even better, the risk is
lower today than ever before,
at least when it comes to
store-bought varieties.
Because, after the 2009 outbreak,
companies like Nestlé and Pillsbury
have started including heat-treated flour
and pasteurized eggs in their dough.
By heating flour to 71 degrees Celsius,
you kill off any E. coli.
And the pasteurization
process heats eggs just enough
to kill off bacteria
without cooking the egg.
Heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs
also explain why the sort of cookie dough
you find in ice cream is harmless.
But if you insist on making
your chocolate chip cookies
from scratch, there’s
a DIY way to sterilize
your own ingredients: bake the cookie!
It’ll still taste good.