Cookie season in the midst of flour recalls

The holiday season is upon us, and many of us will bake at least one batch of family-favorite cookies as a holiday treat. Most people know it’s unsafe to eat raw dough, but most only think of the dangers of raw eggs and the risk of Salmonella. In light of recent flour recalls, it’s important to remember that raw flour can be just as dangerous as raw eggs. There have been two separate flour recalls this week alone, due to possible E.coli contamination.

Illinois company Hudson Mill launched a national recall of 5-pound bags of all-purpose flour because test results showed contamination with E. coli O157:H7.  United Natural Foods, Incorporated recalled “Wild Harvest” organic flour because government test results showed the potential for contamination with E. coli O157:H7; the implicated 5-pound bags of flour were also sold nationwide.

Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or during steps of production. All evidence suggests that harmful bacteria are killed when food made with flour is thoroughly cooked or baked.

Baking cookies is a great family activity for all ages during the holidays. However, this also means that the people most susceptible to food poisoning can come in direct contact with harmful bacteria.

Tips from the FDA and CDC on baking and cooking with flour:

  • Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.

  • Do not let children play with raw dough. Even if they aren’t eating the dough, they may be putting their hands in their mouths after handling the dough.

  • Bake or cook raw dough and batter completely before eating.

  • Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.

  • 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 they have touched.

    • Wash bowls, utensils, countertops, and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.

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