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Holiday baking is in full force, and it wouldn’t be the same without the occasional licking of the spoon from the raw cookie dough that so many of us do without thinking! I remember as a child waiting anxiously for my grandma to give me the beater off her kitchen mixer so I could taste her amazing chocolate chip cookie dough. Although many share fond baking memories, there are serious warnings from the CDC and FDA to not eat any kind of raw dough, and for good reasons!

Most people know that the raw eggs used in doughs can contaminate foods with salmonella, but it may come as a surprise that consuming raw flour is associated with E. coli, a serious foodborne illness that can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. 

Why flour?

Flour is a raw, agricultural product that has not been treated to kill bacteria, germs or other contaminates. According to Leslie Smoot, a senior FDA advisor, “if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.” 

If raw dough is not baked to kill off bacteria or germs, then… bingo…we may consume contaminated food and can get sick. The CDC and FDA have issued many warnings against eating items with raw flour because raw ingredients are meant to be cooked before eating.

It is also important to remember that any dough, not just cookie dough, made with raw flour has the potential to be harmful. Other raw doughs may include breads, pizza, tortillas and even play dough and papier-mâché or ornaments made with flour. 

The risk is real, especially for children under the age of five. Their immune systems may be more sensitive or not yet fully developed, putting them at higher risk for illness. To keep kids safe, the CDC instructs parents to always bake cookies according to directions and keep flour out of kids’ crafts.

During this holiday season remember that there is a reason for cooking raw dough beside the obvious baking that takes place.  If you are one that likes to nibble on raw cookie dough and don’t think you’ll be able to resist, you can heat-treat your flour before baking and try a recipe for edible cookie dough.

Happy baking…and enjoy!

Author: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019). Say No to Raw Dough! https://www.cdc.gov/features/no-raw-dough/index.html

Tane, S. (2016). How you can safely eat raw cookie dough despite recent recalls. Cooking Light. https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/smart-choices/safe-to-eat-cookie-dough

Turner, T. (2017). Chow Line: Don’t Eat Uncooked Flour. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-don%E2%80%99t-eat-uncooked-flour

Turner, T. (2018). Chow Line: With Holiday Baking Season in Full Swing, a Reminder from the CDC to Just Say No to Eating Raw Dough. https://cfaes.osu.edu/news/articles/chow-line-with-holiday-baking-season-in-full-swing-reminder-from-cdc-just-say-no

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017). Raw Dough’s a Raw Deal and Could Make You Sick. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/raw-doughs-raw-deal-and-could-make-you-sick

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