Holiday Hazard: Eating Raw Cookie Dough - FamilyEducation

Holiday Hazard: Eating Raw Cookie Dough

December 13,2011
Erin Dower

Raise your hand if you love raw cookie dough!! (I'm raising mine.)

If you're like me, when you start to dip your finger into that bowl or pre-made roll of dough (or allow your kids to do it), you have that little devil on one shoulder saying, "Yum! Yum! Salmonella schmalmonella. Dough was made for eating!" and the little angel on the other saying, "No, no! You're going to puke like there's no tomorrow. Just wait 'til it's baked, silly!" ... And the devil usually prevails. 

While I've never had the unfortunate experience of getting food poisoning from eating raw dough, I know others who have. And a new study in the latest journal Clinical Infectious Diseases found that a large outbreak of dangerous E. coli in 2009 was caused by store-bought, ready-to-bake chocolate cookie dough. More than 80 people in 30 states were affectted, and 35 were hospitalized.

While Salmonella from contaminated eggs is the main (and very legitimate) concern of those who bake cookies from scratch, it turns out that raw flour was the likely culprit in the 2009 food poisoning outbreak cited in the study. Wait, there's such a thing as raw flour? Yup! The eggs in most pre-made doughs you buy at the grocery store are pasteurized, and most of the other ingredients -- except the flour -- go through "pathogen kill steps," the NYTimes reports.

Experts say it's hard to quantify the risk of eating raw cookie dough, but suffice it to say, there's always a chance that this seemingly innocent and delicious act could land you in the ER. Bummer!

So, let's review some food safety 101: Eating raw foods that were meant to be completely cooked or baked can have adverse effects (i.e., repeated vomiting). Score 1 for the finger-wagging angel on your shoulder.

Here's hoping you have a Salmonella- and E. coli-free holiday season! Please enjoy some of our staff's favorite holiday cookie recipes -- fully baked.*

* Sorry to be a killjoy.