Posted on May 7, 2012 in Food & drink, Health & safety
I always hear, “don’t eat raw cookie dough” — but most people I know (including me) do it anyways. It sometimes gives me a little bit of an upset stomach, but the taste is worth it! What’s the big problem?
Can you get food poisoning from cookie batter? Seems like a silly question. You probably licked the spoon and nibbled the dough you were a kid, and hey — you lived to tell the tale.
Alas, things have changed. We’re not talking just awareness of food-borne bacteria — especially Salmonella enteritidis (aka SE, a bacterium found in shell eggs) – but also that those little pests are in some ways more prevalent and harder to defeat than before.
In the past, the main way salmonella was transmitted through eggs was by infected chicken droppings getting on to eggshells, or even through the tinest of cracks in the eggs. However, the Centers for Disease Control says that during the 1970s, new procedures for cleaning and inspecting eggs were implemented, which really minimized this risk.
>> Can I figure out what gave me food poisoning?
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. Starting in the ’80s, eggs started to be infected directly from the hen while they were being formed — meaning that perfectly clean, uncracked eggs could be dangerous, too. The CDC says, “SE infection is present in hens in most areas in the United States. An estimated one in 20,000 eggs is internally contaminated. Only a small number of hens might be infected at any given time, and an infected hen can lay many normal eggs while only occasionally laying eggs contaminated with SE.”
The cure, however, is a simple one: Practice safe egg.
The FDA offers these egg-handling tips:
Now, here’s where things get really annoying. It once was that cookie dough lovers could find salvation in those commercial ready-to-cook doughs (such as Pillsbury, Nestle Toll House and store brands)… but that’s history.
In 2009, several cases of E coli were linked directly to store-bought raw cookie dough, which led to a recall of 3.6 million packages of the dough. The culprit in this case is suspected to be the flour.
How could the flour be infected? There was probably one large batch of flour that was contaminated, and that was enough to taint millions of wannabe cookies. (E coli is usually spread via contact with animals — especially animal feces. Nom nom.)
>> Are insects actually added to food in the US?
Karen Neil, MD, MSPH, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that “flour does not ordinarily undergo a ‘kill step’ to kill pathogens that may be present, unlike the other ingredients in the cookie dough, like the pasteurized eggs, molasses, sugar, baking soda, and margarine.” (See an abstract of their results here.) When the cookie were properly baked, however, they posed no food poisoning risk.
The bottom line is that every time you lick the batter from the mixing spoon or eat a chunk of raw cookie dough, you’re taking a gamble. But assuming you’re not pregnant, very old, very young or immune-compromised, it’s up to you to decide whether the risk — no matter how small — of spending all night on the bathroom floor worshiping the porcelain goddess is worth that little taste.
Photo by knittygurl
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