A recent report from the FDA found that raw batter, including cookie dough, should not be ingested. Even if the batters are made with cage-free eggs, they say, you can still get E. coli.
This warning is not new. Doctors and researchers have been warning people about the risks of eating raw dough for years. Many believe it is because of salmonella and other risks caused by raw eggs.
According to this latest warning, raw dough and batter could contain tainted flour, furthering the risk of disease. This flour has since been linked to General Mills.
Further research found that the flour is being tainted by animal poop. Birds and other wild animals do their business above or around the field where the manufacturers grow the wheat. This then spreads bacteria into the grain, which is then processed into flour.
"There's no treatment to effectively make sure there's no bacteria in the flour," said Martin Wiedmann, food safety professor at Cornell University.
General Mills has since recalled 10 million pounds of flour under their Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen, and Gold Medal Wondra brands. Weidmann confessed it is "unlikely the FDA will ever cancel the warning about cookie dough."
Unlike other foods like fruits, vegetables, and dry crackers, flour is not meant to be eaten raw. It is better to "boil, bake, roast, microwave, or otherwise heat" flour before eating it.
According to The Washington Post, 21 states have reported about 48 cases connected to dough ingestion. 11 of these cases involved hospitalization. The outbreak was tracked to the General Mills processing facility in Kansas City, Missouri.
This Shiga toxin–Escherichia coli outbreak has been linked to a similar type of E. coli from 1993, which caused 35 deaths and infected 732 people.
This strain, which produces O121, is not terribly fatal, but can cause kidney failure if left untreated.
Who is most at risk?
The elderly, children under the age of 5, and anyone who has or may have a weakened immune system are the most at risk of being affected by this strain of E. coli.
Symptoms can include abdominal cramps and sometimes bloody diarrhea.
"Our food is getting safer, but also our ability to detect problems is getting better," Wiedmann said.
New tests to identify these strains and their origins are being discovered all the time, allowing the FDA and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to find the "fingerprint" and DNA of the bacteria.
For more information, please visit the FDA website.