Everyone loves to lick cookie dough off the spatula. Some people love it so much, they barely get the cookies on the pan before they are half eaten.
Eating raw cookie dough used to be one of life’s greatest pleasures, especially back during childhood. Then, everyone’s mother found out what they were doing.
There has been a lot of media buzz in recent years about the dangers of raw cookie dough. There are a couple of reasons the FDA discourages its consumption, and they are serious. The biggest reason is that it contains raw eggs. Uncooked eggs are a potential source of salmonella, a form of serious food poisoning.
This is even the case for store-bought, prepackaged cookie dough.
“We take a very conservative approach to food handling and absolutely do NOT recommend consuming any raw product that is intended to be cooked,” a representative from Nestle said. “Although the egg that is used in our cookie dough is pasteurized and should not contain any pathogens, theoretically, other ingredients could.”
What’s the real issue with raw cookie dough?
Salmonella is almost always caught from food. Two of its biggest sources are raw eggs and meat. Pregnant women and children are especially susceptible to catching salmonella. This is why they are discouraged from eating eggs over easy or rare meat.
Salmonella isn’t deadly for most people, but it is miserable. It usually involves severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and stomach cramps. People who are sick usually have to deal with it for at least four days, but the symptoms can last up to a week.
Most people recover at home with rest and hydration. However, about 23,000 people land in the hospital every year because of salmonella. Of the 1.2 million annual cases, about 450 people will die. This means that while salmonella might not make you severely ill, it can be very serious. Even if you don’t need hospitalization, you’ll be incredibly miserable for a few days.
Eggs aren’t the only culprit of food poisoning.
They are the main reason why the FDA discourages people from eating raw cookie dough. The other reason is because of raw flour, which can contain salmonella and E. coli. Generally, high oven temperatures kill these bacteria, making cookies safe once baked.
In 2016, several dozen people caught E. coli from eating raw cookie dough. E. coli can cause a range of symptoms. Most strains are harmless and are even present in the human digestive tract. Other strains can cause food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea.
“E. coli is a gut bug that can spread from a cow doing its business in the field, or it could live in the soil for a period of time; and if you think about it, flour comes from the ground, so it could be a risk,” said Adam Karcz, an infection preventionist.
Some strains can get much deadlier. These strains can cause urinary tract or pulmonary infections or respiratory illnesses. Most people also have a high fever. In bad cases, they may also vomit or have severe abdominal cramps or even intestinal bleeding. Up to 10 percent of patients with E. coli may develop a complication called HUS. This can cause kidney failure or permanent kidney damage.
It gets even more disgusting.
What is more, raw flour often contains bits of insects, grime, and even animal droppings. This means that even though raw cookie dough is delicious, you may want to stick to cooked cookies. If you can’t resist, know that you’re taking a risk.
So, are there ways to enjoy cookie dough without the risk?
If you want to play it safer, there are a couple of workarounds to get your hands on safer cookie dough. Using an egg-free recipe is a good place to start. If you want to be extra cautious, you can also toast your flour before you use it to kill some of the bacteria. To do this effectively, pop the flour in the oven at 350 degrees for five minutes. It needs to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees to kill anything harmful.
If you’d prefer, you could try adjusting your baking method.
There are a couple of other options. If you crave the softness of raw cookie dough, you could take your cookies out of the oven a few minutes early. This will make sure you get soft, chewy cookies that won’t land you in the hospital. The minimum requirements for cookie safety? At least 10 minutes in an oven between 300 and 400 degrees.
You can also turn to the internet for other ideas.
But lovers of raw cookie dough don’t need to despair. The internet has many recipes for cookie dough that won’t expose you to dangerous bacteria. These recipes leave out the eggs and bake for a short time at a low temperature. This ensures that bacteria in the flour gets eliminated while the softness and doughiness stays.
Unfortunately, it’s the best you’re going to get unless you’re willing to take a risk. Even if you’ve been eating raw cookie dough for years, remember that means you’ve gotten lucky, not that it’s safe.
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