Centers for Disease Control

Killjoy CDC Warns Nation: 'Say No' to Delicious Raw Cookie Dough

Risks vs. rewards

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Sarah Marchant/Dreamstime.com

Here's a holiday warning from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): Don't eat raw cookie dough, no matter how deliciously sweet it might be.

"When you prepare homemade cookie dough, cake mixes, or even bread, you may be tempted to taste a bite before it is fully cooked," the CDC notes in a message (headlined "Say No to Raw Dough!") recently posted to its website. "But steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick. Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too."

As a kid with a sweet tooth and a craving for uncooked dough, I had to be told repeatedly to wait for the cookies to come out of the oven before gobbling them down. My parents' reasoning was always the same: The dough has raw eggs in it.

The CDC says that's a valid concern. "Raw eggs that are used to make raw dough or batter can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or lightly cooked," the warning states. And Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever, and cramps.

But the raw eggs aren't the only danger. The CDC notes that raw flour "hasn't been treated to kill germs like Escherichia coli (E. coli)," which can cause cramps and diarrhea (again) as well as vomiting. Most flour probably doesn't have E. coli, but the CDC would rather Americans be safe than sorry.

So there's definitely a risk. Between December 2015 and September 2016, 63 people became ill in an E. coli outbreak linked to raw flour. And in case you were wondering (I was), consuming raw cookie dough seems to have claimed the life of at least one person.

That said, smart consumers measure risks against rewards. As far as I can tell, there's just the one example of a raw-dough related death. And the vast majority of people who eat raw dough never get sick.

As Dr. Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher, an associate professor of health behavior and health education at the University of Michigan, noted in a 2016 piece for CNN, it's impossible to rid our lives of risk. The question for cookie dough lovers, then, is whether the miniscule health risk outweighs the fleeting joy of devouring dough.

So this holiday season, enjoy your raw cookie dough. Or don't. It's completely up to you. As for children, concerned parents are well within their rights to forbid them from eating the stuff. But a word of advice: They probably won't listen. I know I never did.

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42 responses to “Killjoy CDC Warns Nation: 'Say No' to Delicious Raw Cookie Dough

  1. What is left out of this story is the details of the death in question. Was the cookie dough expired? Since it was store bought, does anyone know if refrigeration was consistently maintained? Did the person who suffered have a compromised immune system?

    The best and safest cookie dough is prepared at home, tasted immediately after preparation, and/or refrigerated immediately and discarded in a reasonable time. My rule is 2-3 days for cookie dough.

    Salmonella tends to go wild if you leave something warm and un-refrigerated for too long. My Mom got it from accidentally leaving her chicken/mayo sandwich in a hot car. Fresh ingredients, proper hygeine and proper food handling such as refrigeration, will take you a long way in food safety.

    1. “What is left out of this story is the details of the death in question.”

      It may have been someone whose immune system was compromised for whatever reason. Maybe they were undergoing chemo. Maybe they were elderly. Doesn’t the flu take out thousands of elderly people every year?

    2. What kind of monster discards cookie dough? Way it raw or cook it. Don’t waste it.

      And yes, you can freeze it, before or after cooking.

    3. If stuff weren’t left out of stories, 90% of the media’s blathering would be shrugged off with a “huh, makes sense.”

      1. If stuff weren’t left out of stories, how would news outlets write stories that confirm peoples’ biases, and reporters would have to come right out and say what they want you to think? “Person X was not prosecuted for Y. An analysis of people in person X’s position revealed that 80-90% have done Y, and no one has ever been prosecuted for it. But you should still be outraged that Person X was not prosecuted, because I (and you) don’t like Person X.”

    4. It was a batch of store-bought Nestle refrigerated dough that turned out to be contaminated, presumably from its flour. No mention of a compromised immune system, she appeared to be a normal adult with a son in high school, ate a couple bites raw, & 2 days later got a toxin-bearing E. coli infection, was quickly cured of the infection, wound up with organ damage from it, hung on for 4 mostly-sick yrs., then died from organ failure.

  2. “That said, smart consumers measure risks against rewards. As far as I can tell, there’s just the one example of a raw-dough related death. And the vast majority of people who eat raw dough never get sick.”

    How many people order eggs “over easy” every year? If that were a serious liability problem, more breakfast joints would refuse to make them that way. As a breakfast joint traveler, I’ve never seen a place that wouldn’t make your eggs over easy. Maybe it’s a bigger risk than I thought.

    Anyway, I’d think the “over easy” people would be a much larger sample than the cookie dough eaters, too.

    Oh, and I guess salmonella isn’t as deadly as I might have suspected either. The CDC says there are 1 million infections every year from food, and only 450 of those people died. 450 divided by 1 million = 0.045 percent.

    Most people just get the runs.

    1. They did try this with the eggs in New Jersey, but it was later repealed.

      https://tinyurl.com/ya9bstaq

      1. Why am I unsurprised it was New Jersey that tried this?

      2. holy shit! Seriously, if anyone tried to take my over easy eggs away I might just have to take that revolution I got percolating on the back burner to the next level.

  3. The drive to the grocery store is more dangerous than raw dough.

  4. Rocky didn’t get sick he beat Apollo.

  5. I always stuck my head in the oven just to be sure.

  6. “Raw eggs that are used to make raw dough or batter can contain a germ called Salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or lightly cooked,”

    Are the CDC and the FDA talking? Word I hear is that with the rise of ionizing radiation treatments food-borne illness in ‘industrial agriculture products’ are soon to be a thing of the past if they aren’t already.

  7. I skip the flu shot, own a gun, AND eat raw cookie dough. My odds of dying in the next three weeks are uuuge.

    1. You could really ramp it up by having a smoke while driving home from the bar.

      1. Yeah, just follow every raw cookie up with a shot of vodka. You can still get sick and die, but the odds of food poisoning will be much lower.

    2. Just as long as you aren’t one of those hippie scofflaws drinking raw goats milk you should be fine. Those dudes are just playing with death.

    3. Gonna disagree with you about the flu shot. Your personal odds of dying from that decision are minuscule but you increased the risk for my kid who can’t get a flu shot (because of allergies to the eggs that the shots are made from). If you’re the only one skipping the flu shot, that’s still not a big deal but if lots of people follow your lead, society loses the effectiveness of the “herd immunity” that offers secondary protection for the subset who cannot be directly protected. So get your flu shot even if you don’t think you need it because it will help the grandmother who lives next door with the compromised immune system.

      Raw chocolate chip cookie dough, on the other hand, is great. The CDC has been taking too many of their own drugs if they think they can stop us. (And it is a tragedy in my family that my kid can’t have any because of the eggs. But – silver lining – that means more for me.)

  8. I live my cookie dough the way I like my women: with a CDC warning.

    1. *like, damnit

      1. There’s nothing wrong with living cookie dough, man.

  9. Defund this department immediately

  10. If you’re making cookies from scratch, you need to taste the dough to be sure the cookies will be good.

  11. My grandmother [who was a practical nurse from days of yore, back when you re-used glass syringes–she had a set] used to make me raw egg milkshakes when I was a young kid, Those things were freaking delicious, salmonella and amoebic dysentery be damned.

  12. The CDC?
    Aren’t they part of the federal government?
    You know, the guys who haven’t gotten the food pyramid right in a gazillion tries; and admit the latest one is so wrong they will ‘update’ it in 5 years.
    The ones who have stated that coffee is good for you / bad for you many times?
    The same ones who have gone back and forth with eggs being good / bad / good / bad / good?
    Etc.

    1. Naw, this is the one that took 30 years to admit Saccharin was ok and can’t make up their mind about butter and chocolate. The other other whitewash bureaucracy.

    2. “The same ones who have gone back and forth with eggs being good / bad / good / bad / good?”

      Salt
      Fat

  13. Madness. Crazy talk. You should throw away all your food before you eat it. Just to be safe.

  14. Wait a minute! How can the CDC permit the sale of cookie dough ice cream then? How many children might die or get horribly ill because of those merchants of death Ben and Jerry, who have normalized the consumption of this poison? Won’t somebody think of the children damnit!!!

    1. The cookie dough ingredients are pasteurized before mixing

      1. But, but, the children might then go ahead and eat REAL, unpasturized raw cookie dough-just like they might try real cigarettes if they try an e-cigarette, or a real gun if they play with a toy one. We simply can’t have that!

  15. Safely ignore.

    I trust my mother more than a bureaucrat.

  16. My always saved some raw cookie dough or cake batter for me to lick-I have never to this day had food poisoning and rarely get sick possibly because of this ( I am hardly a model of healthy living otherwise) since it helped boost my immune system at a young age.

  17. Jeopardy for Government

    A: Just Say No

  18. “Caesar salad
    A Caesar salad is a green salad of romaine lettuce and croutons dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies, garlic, Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper. In its original form, this salad was prepared and served tableside.”
    (Wiki)

    Believe me, that egg ain’t cooked.

  19. Sensible cooking practices are all that are need to keep you safe.

    Throw out the sour smelling dish towels and sponges. Seriously. Don’t let raw foods and meats sit out in the open for any appreciable period of time. Wash your cooking surfaces. Wash your hands.

    Do that and you’ll be fine. Taking an egg out of the carton and cracking it open and mixing it into cookie does IS NOT DANGEROUS. Stop acting like it is. Leaving your raw cookie dough out in the counter for a few hours is bad. Mixing your cookie dough on the same unwashed wooden board you cut your raw chicken on is bad. But merely using eggs in your cookies is not. Stop acting like it is.

    1. But none of that applies to the flour. It’s dry, it can’t culture anything. Yet it appears to be able to carry enough preserved plasmid-bearing E. coli to do something like this to those who eat it raw. But more rarely than being hit by lightning.

  20. Sure, enough, bags of flour now come w a warning on the label not to eat it raw.

    But…that doesn’t go only for flour, but for all raw foods whose guts have ever been exposed. So don’t eat salad or fruit that wasn’t peeled?

  21. If you’re really too chicken to accept the small risk, you can spread the flour on a cookie sheet and bake it first, and skip the eggs. Risk-free cookie dough.

    Chocolate mousse must be really be really bad, since it’s hard to separate the eggs without the whites contacting the outside of the shell.

  22. First root beer, now cookie dough! What’s the world coming to!

  23. Raw eggs go into many a Caesar dressing recipe. For you Gen Zers, Caesar salads are what we used to eat before they invented kale.

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