Christmas parties, work potlucks and family get-togethers mean a lot of baking in the coming weeks.
If you’re tempted to lick the bowl after mixing cake batter or dig into that raw cookie dough, however, you need to resist.
Consuming unbaked food that is supposed to be cooked can make you sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kids also can get sick from handling raw dough used for crafts, the CDC says.
Most people know that eating raw eggs can contain salmonella, which can cause illness if the eggs aren’t cooked properly.
The CDC estimates salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.
Bacteria aren’t lurking only in eggs, though. Flour, which is usually a raw product, usually isn’t treated for germs like E. coli. The CDC reported an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick in 2016. Some E. coli can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness, bloodstream infections and other illnesses.
“Raw flour is a raw product, and it doesn’t go through any heat treatment before you get it,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, told SELF Magazine in 2017. “You should treat that flour like you’re handling raw meat.”
It doesn’t mean you can never eat raw cookie dough. Dough that is commercially produced to be edible is safe.
The CDC suggests the following safe practices to avoid getting ill:
- 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 bacteria.
- 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.
Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough:
- Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces that they have touched.
- Wash bowls, utensils, countertops and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.