SOLON, OHIO — Nestle USA’s Baking Division on Jan. 13 said it will begin using heat-treated flour in the manufacture of its Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, effective immediately. The decision comes after Nestle earlier this week notified the Food and Drug Administration that two samples of the company’s Toll House refrigerated cookie Dough produced at its Danville, Va., facility failed to pass a “best-in-class” testing protocol and tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

With the conversion to heat-treated flour under way, Nestle said it temporarily has suspended production, with production with the new ingredient beginning Jan. 25. The new product will begin to appear on grocery shelves in early March, Nestle said. The company stressed that product currently on store shelves displaying the “New Batch” sticker is not affected and no product is being recalled.

“We have informed the F.D.A. of our plans and will continue to cooperate with them,” Nestle said. “In addition to converting to heat-treated flour, we also plan to continue our rigorous protocol of testing ingredients and finished product. While we are pleased our quality assurance protocols are working, we are taking these steps to further ensure the quality of our products.”

Heat-treated flour is a specialty product not widely offered within the flour milling business. While sanitation is among the qualities of heat-treated flour, milling companies introducing the product have tended to focus principally on other properties. For instance, Siemer Milling Co., Teutopolis, Ill., in introducing its heat-treated products emphasized how the flour is beneficial in providing “the critical functional attributes required by savory foods such as soups, sauces and gravies. Functional characteristics such as heat, acid and shear stability are essential when preparing thermally processed or dry mix foods.” The company also noted that heat-treated flour is helpful for products that need to be kettle cooked, retorted, refrigerated and/or frozen.

In promoting its product, Siemer also points out food safety benefits of heat-treated flour, allowing food companies to “significantly reduce microorganism content in their specialty products portfolio.”

In June 2009, Nestle USA voluntarily recalled refrigerated cookie dough after the F.D.A. and the Centers for Disease Control notified Nestle they were conducting an investigation into reported E. coli O157:H7 illnesses that may have been related to consumption of raw cookie dough.

The product was relaunched in August of 2009 following a thorough investigation at the Danville manufacturing facility and implementation of a “best-in-class” testing protocol. The protocol includes testing ingredients before they enter Nestle’s facility, rigorous environmental sampling throughout the facility, and testing of finished product before it is shipped to customers.

“Consistent with our quality standards for Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, this change will only further enhance the safety of our products,” said Paul Bakus, general manager for the Nestle USA Baking Group.