Step away from the cookie dough
Licking the batter is a childhood rite of passage, and who doesn’t love sneaking bits of cookie dough while baking? However, you may want to reconsider, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a strong warning about its safety risks.
Many assume raw eggs are the problem, as their danger is well known. But this time the problem is in the flour.
Flour, like most other food products, can contain dangerous bacteria and toxins. General Mills just recalled 10 million pounds of flour because it could contain E. coli O121. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42 people have been infected across 21 states, some of whom had handled or eaten raw dough.
“There are many strains of E. coli, but all of them can be dangerous, especially for the very young. It’s not something you want to take a chance with,” says Dr. Shelanda Hayes, a family medicine physician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “Younger children are at higher risk of developing the worst symptoms, like kidney failure, though even healthy people can face serious complications.”
The FDA warning is not only for eating raw dough, but also applies to handling it. Families should be careful if they plan to make homemade “play-doh” or go to restaurants that give kids raw dough to play with while they wait. Some packaged baking mixes may also be contaminated and E. coli can get on the hands and in the mouth, even if the dough isn’t eaten directly.
The General Mills recall includes Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour made between November 14, 2015 and December 4, 2015. Further details can be found on the FDA website.
“Learning how to handle food safely is a good first step toward keeping your family safe from E. coli infection,” says Dr. Hayes. “While we can’t protect ourselves from all dangers, we can decrease our risks by making just a few small lifestyle changes.”
Some recommendations to stay safe include:
- Pay attention to food recalls and know whether you are at increased risk of harm due to existing health conditions, such as pregnancy.
- Wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap. Wash them both before and after food preparation and immediately after handling any raw meat. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cook meat thoroughly and use a food thermometer to confirm when it is done.
- Don’t drink unpasteurized milk, other dairy products or juice.
- Wash surfaces and objects that babies or children regularly come into contact with, like pacifiers, toys and high chairs.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.