Surprising reason FDA is warning against eating raw cookie dough

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SILVER SPRING, Md. — Most people know that eating raw cookie dough is risky because uncooked eggs could cause salmonella poisoning. But the Food and Drug Administration is now reporting an outbreak of sicknesses linked to flour used in various dough.

That raw flour may contain a bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121, the agency said in an advisory issued Tuesday.

The warning comes in the wake of an E.coli outbreak linked to flour produced by General Mills that infected at least 38 people in 20 states. The company ended up voluntarily recalling 10 million pounds of flour, Fox News reports.

Some of the recalled flours had been sold to restaurants that allow children to play with dough made from the raw flour while waiting for their meals.

The FDA also said consumers may not realize raw dough used in children’s crafts — like clay kids commonly play with while waiting for their food at restaurants — still pose a health risk.

The CDC has advised restaurants and schools against allowing children to play with raw dough, and for fans of cookie dough ice cream to buy the treat from a manufacturer rather than make it from scratch.

“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., a senior advisor in FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods, said in the advisory. If an animal defecates, bacteria from the waste may poison the grain that goes onto be harvested and milled into flour.

Raw dough is risky to eat because no “kill step” occurs prior to consumption. Kill steps that eradicate infection-linked bacteria include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving and frying, according to the FDA.

Common symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is often-bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Severe cases could lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.

According to the FDA, people most at risk of infection are young children under 5 years, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.