Raw cookie dough linked to E. coli outbreak

By Staff Writer • Published: September 10th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

No one expects raw cookie dough purchased from the grocery store cooler to be healthy. But researchers have now linked cookie dough to something more dangerous than a sugar high: an E. coli outbreak.

A study led by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds raw cookie dough to a long list of foods that have been tied to E. coli, including iceberg lettuce, alfalfa sprouts and salami. The cookie dough outbreak affected 77 patients in 30 states. Thirty-five of them were hospitalized.

In cookie dough, researchers suspect that the troublemaking ingredient might be flour, which is generally not treated for pathogens in the way that other cookie dough ingredients, such as eggs and margarine, are.

Researchers noted that prepackaged cookie dough has legions of fans, particularly among adolescent girls, and that many consumers buy it with no plans to actually bake cookies — even when packaging contains explicit instructions that the dough is unsafe when uncooked.

As a result, the study’s authors focused their suggestions on how manufacturers can make the food safer, reasoning that this might be easier than getting Americans to stop eating raw cookie dough. The researchers hope to convince cookie dough suppliers to switch to heat-treated or pasteurized flour in their products.

The study did, however, contain some good news for those with a sweet tooth; Chocolate was not implicated as a culprit. Chocolate chip varieties of cookie dough were less frequently tied to the consumers who got sick.

And the cookie dough found in cookie dough ice cream? It might not be great for your waistline, but it’s safe from E. coli because cookie dough ice cream isn’t supposed to be cooked.

So if you’re craving cookie dough, skip the tube of uncooked cookies and dip your spoon into cookie dough ice cream instead.