Few holiday temptations are greater than the urge to stick your finger into a mixing bowl and scoop up a deliciously mushy lump of raw cookie dough. Something about the melt-in-your-mouth, buttery texture of the uncooked stuff makes it irresistible. But unfortunately, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, that also makes it incredibly unsafe to consume.
On a warning page updated in early December, the CDC decreed: “Say No to Raw Dough!” Though cookie dough is a major concern, raw flour products of other varieties — like cake and pancake batter, pie and pizza crusts, and even craft clay — could cause food poisoning, too. These products not only contain raw eggs, which can carry vicious bacteria, but also raw flour, a less obvious, occasionally disease-carrying culprit.
Most people have heard, or at least read on the bottom of brunch menus, that the reason it’s not safe to eat uncooked eggs is because they can carry Salmonella, a nasty bacteria that can cause vicious food poisoning. Salmonella gets into the eggs in two ways: It can spread from the hen even before the shells are formed, or eggs can be tainted after they’re laid because of infected animal droppings, beddings, or feed.
The only truly safe way to consume eggs that are at risk of carrying Salmonella is to cook them to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or hotter. In other words: bake your cookie dough before snacking on it. Alternatively, recipes calling for only lightly cooked eggs (say, Caesar salad dressing or Hollandaise sauce) could incorporate pasteurized (heat-treated) eggs, according to the CDC.
Fortunately, as the video below shows, avoiding Salmonella poisoning is pretty easy if you keep your kitchen clean and resist the urge to eat food before it’s cooked.
Flour seems like a pretty innocuous product in comparison to eggs, but it’s essentially a raw plant — which, as we learned from this year’s tainted romaine lettuce scares, can carry Escherichia coli. This bacteria, which can taint wheat crops in the field or during processing, also causes severe and occasionally fatal food poisoning, as the video below shows.
“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 in FDA’s Office of Food Safety.
Just as with Salmonella, to avoid the risk of getting sick from raw flour — like the 56 people who were infected after eating raw, prepackaged cookie dough in 2016 — just bake the dang cookies, and leave the mushiness to the mashed potatoes.