For many people, the holiday season is the perfect time to spend time together in the kitchen sharing delicious baked foods and desserts. When you prepare homemade cookie dough, cake mixes or even bread, you may be tempted to taste a bite before it is fully cooked. But steer clear of this temptation — eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick. Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too.
Flour is typically a raw agricultural product. This means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs like Escherichia coli (E. coli). Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or at other steps as flour is produced. The bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. This is why you should never taste or eat raw dough or batter — whether made from recalled flour or any other flour. In 2016, an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick. Flour products have long shelf lives and could be in people’s homes for a long time. If you have any recalled flour products in your home, throw them away.
In addition, raw eggs that are used to make raw dough or batter can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or lightly cooked. Eggs are safe to eat when cooked and handled properly.
Follow these safe food handling practices when you are baking and cooking with flour and other raw ingredients:
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, whether for cookies, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.
- Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
- Bake or cook raw dough and batter, such as cookie dough and cake mix, before eating.
- Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
- Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
- Do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
- Cookie dough ice cream sold in stores contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria.
- Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to eat-foods. Because flour is a powder, it can spread easily.
- Follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are cooked.
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs or raw dough.
- Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs or any surfaces that they have touched.
- Wash bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.