Raw cookie dough. It’s as bewitching as it is vexing. On the one hand, it smells sublime — but on the other, it contains raw egg, and shouldn’t be eaten until thoroughly baked.
But it’s not just the eggs you should be wary of. Unless you’re whipping up a batch of gluten-free cookies, cookie dough usually contains raw flour, which can also make you very sick.
Yes, raw flour.
According to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raw doughs containing flour — e.g. cookie dough, pizza dough, tortilla dough, etc. — should not be consumed, or given to children to play with (as a substitute for Play-Doh, for instance), as it can possibly contain harmful bacteria such as E. coli.
“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” said Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., a senior advisor with the FDA’s Office of Food Safety, of the risk associated with eating raw flour.
The FDA also warned against eating raw eggs and their association with Salmonella, but urged that “consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E. coli in a product like flour.”
The CDC cites two recent E. coli outbreaks (in both 2016 and 2019) that sickened over 80 people in recent years, both traced back to flour. To that end, the agency also advises you throw away any of the recalled flour linked to E. coli outbreaks, in case there’s some still kicking around in your cabinets.
Symptoms of E. coli poisoning can be severe, the FDA says, and include “diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps” as well as vomiting. Extreme cases can lead to a certain type of kidney failure that largely affects children under 5, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.
Plus, most cases don’t present until several days after ingesting E. coli bacteria, the CDC says.
With that in mind, it’s best to thoroughly cook or bake your raw doughs before eating, clean up any floured workspaces when finished, and avoid allowing children to play with raw dough as a substitute for clay.
Oh, and don’t eat raw cookie dough, as tempting as it may be. Just suck it up, and wait out the agonizing 12-14 minutes for your cookies to bake. We know you can do it.