Back in 2009 there was a multi-state outbreak in the United States that caused more than 75 people to be sick after eating the raw cookie dough from storebought Nestle Toll House cookie dough. Indeed it was E. Coli that turned out to be the bacterial culprit.
A lot of people make the association between raw eggs and salmonella and that can be true. But not in this particular case. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control tried to figure out what the teenage girls who were ill, in so many different states, had in common.
After interviewing a few of the parents, they found the common factor was the eating of raw cookie dough. Now you might think – aha! it must have been the eggs! – but in fact the eggs used were pasteurized making them far less likely to be the culprit of E. Coli contamination.
On the other hand, did you know that flour can be highly exposed to harmful elements between the harvest and the time it gets to the consumer? In the end it was thought that the fl our used in the dough was the most likely ingredient to have become contaminated with E. Coli.
It’s not just the store bought cookie dough that can get you into trouble. Cookie dough that you make from scratch at home, as you've asked, can also be contaminated. It is the heating and the baking that helps to kill the bacteria.
While all raw food has the potential to be contaminated with E. Coli, in our homes it is essential to keep our surfaces clean, avoid any potential cross-contamination and make sure we always wash our hands.
So is it bad to eat raw cookie dough or lick the spoon with raw batter? Well, it depends on what kind of gambler you are. In my house we bake the cookies, and THEN we eat them!
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2014.