F.D.A.: Don't eat raw cookie dough

by Eric Schroeder
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Raw cookie dough
The F.D.A. issued a health statement advising consumers not to eat raw dough or batter.

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on June 28 issued a health statement advising consumers not to eat raw dough or batter — whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas.

The F.D.A., which is in the middle of an investigation of an outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to flour, has warned of the dangers of consuming raw cookie dough before, but in issuing a two-page statement on its Consumer Health Information web site has gone even further in trying to communicate the dangers.

Jenny Scott, a senior adviser in the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said eating raw dough or batter may make people sick. She also indicated that even though there are web sites devoted to “flour crafts,” parents should avoid giving their children raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with.

“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 adviser in the F.D.A.’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods.

Dr. Smoot said bacteria from animal waste may contaminate the grain, which then is harvested and milled into flour.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year identified the Kansas City facility of General Mills, Inc. as the “likely source” of an outbreak of E. coli O121 linked to flour.

As part of its investigation with state, local and federal health and regulatory officials, the C.D.C. said traceback investigations using package information collected from ill people and records collected from restaurants where ill people were exposed to raw dough indicated the flour was produced in the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City.

Sixteen (76%) of 21 people said they or someone in their household used flour in the week before they became ill, according to the C.D.C. Meanwhile, 9 (41%) of 22 people said they ate or tasted raw homemade dough or batter, and 12 (55%) of 22 people said they used General Mills’ Gold Medal brand flour. Three ill people reported eating or playing with raw dough at restaurants, the C.D.C. said. 
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