Death by chocolate? Eating contaminated dough can make you just as sick.
OK, I admit it. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up chasing your final days simply from eating a few spoons of uncooked cookie dough. (It would definitely be a rare occasion fit for the nightly news: death by Gingerbread.)
It is the festive season though, and with it comes certain drives. There’s that desire to celebrate that propels you onto the roof, no matter how steep, to hang those dang lights one more time, (even when half are burnt out). And then there’s that more interior-focused pull-the one that may force you to break out the ginger snaps, short bread, sugar cookies and other baking delights, diet or no diet.
And why not? Plainly put, baking is fun. And while doing it, it’s extremely tempting to indulge in a taste test, just to make sure everything is mixing smoothly, of course. But nibbler beware: those bites can carry hidden dangers.
The first thing that comes to my mind is the uncooked egg. Raw dough most often contains egg, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get Salmonella poisoning from it, but it’s possible. No one wants to spend the holidays holed up in a hospital bed, nursing nausea, vomiting, a fever, headache and the runs. No thanks.
But apart from egg, the FDA recently highlighted an often-overlooked source of food-borne sickness: flour.
Flour? Yes. Here’s the thing: flour is made from wheat that comes directly from the field. It’s ground down for baking, and hasn’t been treated to kill bacteria, before it reaches your kitchen and as such, it all comes back to the cows and other creatures, and where they roam.
As the FDA states, “if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested.” Yuck.
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Does it actually happen? Yes. Back in 2016 an outbreak of infections caused by E. coli contaminated flour resulted in dozens of people falling sick across the country.
Ten million pounds of flour were recalled, including unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising types.
How can you avoid the pitfalls of baking and stay safe? Apart from harvesting your own wheat and having one hefty scare crow/cow, the FDA offers these tips:
- Don’t eat raw cookie dough, period. Also avoid consuming cake mix, batter or any other uncooked dough.
- Always follow the directions on the package directions, and ensure that you cook products containing flour at the right temperature and for the proper amount of time.
- Make sure you wash your hands, work surfaces, and cooking utensils thoroughly after coming in contact with flour. (Don’t simply rinse the measuring cup under some water).
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination.
- Follow the directions on the label and chill products containing raw dough promptly after you buy them.
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