Raw Cookie Dough or not?

Since that late evening bowl of your favorite ice cream is not enough, you add that frozen scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough. Butter, cream, chocolate and a combination of granulated sugar sends satisfying impulses from your tongue directly to your brain, even before you pick up that first spoon. Did you just make that cookie dough in your kitchen or did you buy it from a store?

An FDA warning released earlier this week has consumers confused as to whether uncooked cookie dough is safe to eat because of potential contamination with a type of bacteria that can cause pain in your GI tract. You’re okay eating most commercial cookie dough products–in cookie dough ice cream, where the product is intended to be eaten uncooked.

Edible-Cookie-Dough-Recipe-Step-1Biggest concern is for people eating anything uncooked that contains flour purchased off the shelf or delivered in 50-pound bags to pizzerias and bakeries.

To be perfectly clear:

  • Do not eat any uncooked dough, cake batter, uncooked tortillas, etc. at home.
  • Do not allow your kids (or yourself) to play with dough or flour-based “clay” that some restaurants give away. Check with your day care center and make sure.

So, you wonder:

How can raw cookie dough sold commercially be safe while grandma’s wholesome recipe made at home runs the risk of giving you bloody diarrhea (sorry to gross you out)?

Why does no one seem to be talking about the risks of uncooked eggs that you also add to many home recipes?

The raw dough alarm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been investigating the cause of severe intestinal symptoms in 20 states beginning back in December 2015. Ten people have been hospitalized and one patient went into a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. These infections have ranged from age 1 to 95, with a median age of 18. Interestingly, 78% of people with the illness are female. I wonder who is guilty of tasting that cookie dough while prepping?

Thankfully – so far, no one has died from raw cookie dough illness.

Multistate-Outbreak-of-Shiga-toxin-producing-Escherichia-coli-O121-Infections-Linked-to-Flour-June-2016-E.-coli-CDCPhoto Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A type of E. coli bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121, or STEC O121 is the common bacteria. Investigations reveal the most likely source of these bacteria is a factory in Kansas City, Missouri. As a result, General Mills issued a recall on May 31 of all sizes and varieties of Gold Medal Flour, Gold Medal Wondra Flour and Signature Kitchens. On June 11, the company confirmed that the FDA had found the bacteria in one sample among the many that were tested.

Because flour has a long shelf life, more cases may emerge.

Most manufacturers of pre-made cookie dough use a heat treatment for flour and a pasteurization process for eggs which, unrelated to this E. coli outbreak, are a known source of disease-causing Salmonella bacteria.

Lesson learned?

Just don’t make homemade cookie dough ice cream unless you have pasteurizing process and related equipment. If that’s your favorite flavor, buy commercially made products. Manufacturers (should) use ingredients that include treated flour and pasteurized eggs.

Don’t eat uncooked flour. Don’t play with it and then touch your face.  Processed foods can sometimes be safer for you than “natural.”

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Shigellowich anyone?

Shigellowich, anyone?

Recently, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 74 people who suffered from a severe gastrointestinal illness after eating at a Lombard, IL restaurant last year.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in DuPage County Circuit Court against a restaurant on E. Roosevelt Road. The suit alleges that during a period from Feb. 23 to March 1, 2010, there were 328 cases of shigellosis infection, an intestinal disease caused by a family of bacteria known as shigella, which originated from the restaurant.

The lawsuit alleges that an investigation by the DuPage County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health showed that two of the restaurant’s employees tested positive for the same strand of shigella that caused the outbreak and that those two individuals had been ill with gastrointestinal symptoms prior to the outbreak.

The lawsuit states “poor hygienic practices by these employees, and generally at the defendant’s restaurant caused widespread contamination of patrons’ food.”

What does this mean if you are an owner?

If you are an owner of a restaurant where you prepare and serve sandwiches all day, shouldn’t you be noticing that some of your employees are visiting the restroom more often than usual? Is it not noticeable that employees are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms? Shouldn’t the employees be educated on what this gastrointestinal illness really means?

Attention Employees! If you have to go to the restroom every 30 minutes, then perhaps you should stay home and let someone else work on those sandwiches! OR At least, let your manager know that you have the runnies…… uh oh – I gotta go.