ALBANY — When it comes to raw dough, the CDC says don’t be naughty.
The Christmas holidays bring with them family and cooking, especially delicious baked specialties such as cakes, cookies and breads. The holiday delicacies are tempting, even before they go into the oven.
But Christmas is no time to give in to temptation by sneaking a bite of that delicious cake batter before it’s a full-fledged cake, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
“You can get sick after eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be baked, such as dough or batter,” CDC officials say. “Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too.”
The problem is flour may not look like it, but it is a raw food. Typically, it has not been treated to kill germs like E. coli that can cause food poisoning. The grain can be contaminated by germs any time from when it’s in a farm field until it’s in a box or bag in your pantry. Simply grinding and bleaching flour does not kill those germs. Only cooking does that.
The CDC reports that in 2016 and 2019 there were two outbreaks of E. coli infections linked to raw flour that made more than 80 people sick.
Likewise, it’s not safe to eat raw or lightly cooked eggs, which can contain a germ called Salmonella — another source of food poisoning. CDC officials say you should always cook and handle eggs properly.
If you just can’t bypass a little unbaked dough, use cookie dough that is designed for consumption when uncooked. CDC officials note some companies do market edible cooking dough that has heat-treated flour and either includes pasteurized eggs or does not have eggs in it.
They say you should read the label carefully to make sure it’s safe to eat.
Meanwhile, it’s also a good idea to check out any flour or baking mixes you may have had in the pantry for an extended period of time against recall notices in recent years. Flour and mixes have long shelf lives, and they may have been on your shelf a great deal longer than you realize.
The CDC says consumers should follow these safe food handling practices when utilizing 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
♦ 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.
♦ You also should clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs or raw dough by:
♦ Washing your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces they have touched.
♦ Cleaning bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.
If you do get food poisoning, CDC officials say the symptoms range from mild to severe. The symptoms may differ depending on which germ you swallowed.
For E. coli, infections vary but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. People usually get sick three or four days after ingesting the germ. Most people recover within a week.
Some people, however, develop a serious type of illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, stroke and death.
Salmonella infections typically appear six hours to six days after exposure to the bacteria. Symptoms typically include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. In most cases, illness lasts four days to a week, and people recover without antibiotics.
Salmonella also can be serious, and it’s more dangerous for those 65 and older, infants, and people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
You can get more information online at cdc.gov.