via Moak: Say no to raw dough, FDA says, clarionledger.com
As children, many of us share a favorite childhood memory of when our mom or grandma would bake cookies or cakes, and then let us kids scrape the mixing bowl. That sweet, doughy mixture was irresistible, and many of us carried on the tradition for our own kids. In many families, it’s a tradition that goes back generations. Nearly anyone who bakes will tell you that it’s hard to resist the urge to sample the goods before they go into the oven. (As somebody who loves to bake, I know this firsthand.)
It’s rare to hear about anyone actually getting sick from eating raw dough, but as our knowledge of food-borne illnesses has expanded, it’s become apparent that we’re taking a risk when we indulge our sweet tooth this way. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned us again about the potential dangers after an outbreak of a particularly nasty bacteria called “Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121” (a form of the well-known E.coli). Dozens of people in 20 states have so far been sickened by the outbreak, which has been linked to a Kansas City, Missouri, facility that made flour for General Mills.
According to the FDA, General Mills has voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of flour sold under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen’s and Gold Medal Wondra. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose and self-rising flours. Since flour has a long shelf life, the FDA advises you to throw them away.
General Mills noted the recall was based on an abundance of caution, although the link between illnesses and any particular product is hard to ascertain. “As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour,” said Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills’ Baking division.
Jenny Scott, a senior adviser in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, warns that eating raw dough or batter of any kind — or giving homemade “play clay” to kids — can make us sick. Scott notes any flour can contain bacteria that cause disease. The FDA-CDC investigation found some of the flours made in the Kansas City facility had been sold to restaurants that give kids dough to play with while waiting for their meals.
Usually, the concern is about salmonella and other disease-causing organisms found in raw eggs, but eggs aren’t always the culprit. “Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” says Leslie Smoot, a senior adviser in FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods. “So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.”
Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, the FDA notes, include diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps, although most people recover within a week. But some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can occur in people of any age, but is most common in young children under 5, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.
Parents of young children should be particularly aware. Some kindergartens and daycare facilities make “play clay” from raw dough. Even if kids don’t eat the dough, they can put their hands in their mouth after handling it. “Childcare facilities and preschools should discourage the practice of playing with raw dough,” the FDA notes.
The agency notes commercial products containing raw dough (such as the irresistible cookie-dough ice cream), are usually prepared using safe ingredients, such as pasteurized eggs and treated flour, so they aren’t a concern.
Here are some tips from FDA to help avoid getting sick from uncooked dough or batter:
- Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked.
- Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
- Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
- Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily because of its powdery nature.
- Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.
For more about the flour recall, visit http://www.generalmills.com/flour.