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Just say no to cookie dough: CDC urges Americans to avoid the gooey delight

It’s gooey, it’s sweet, and sometimes crunchy, warm, or aromatic.

But as tempting as it seems, raw cookie dough is equally dangerous and you should not eat it, health officials say. 

Raw eggs carry salmonella risk, and flour carries and E. coli risk – both of which can leave you sick for days, or even hospitalized. 

In short, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say, impatiently stealing a dollop on your finger, or licking the bowl, is the culinary equivalent of Russian roulette.  

To hammer home that point, the CDC put out a stern warning on Sunday, telling Americans not to eat raw cookie dough before the holidays. The FDA’s Scott Gottlieb, MD, tweeted the warning, adding that it shouldn’t be eaten after the holidays, either.  

Dangers? Raw eggs carry salmonella risk, and flour carries and E. coli risk – both of which can leave you sick for days, or even hospitalized 

‘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,’ the CDC warning said.

‘Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.’ 


The latest warning comes two years after an E.coli outbreak linked to flour sickened 63 Americans. 

It sparked a year-long investigation by Dr Samuel Crowe, an epidemiologist at the CDC who revealed to the New York Times that he has suffered from both salmonella and E. coli poisoning himself, describing the experiences as ‘pretty darn unpleasant’. 

Dr Crowe’s report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine days before Thanksgiving last year, concluded that any flour can contain dormant bacteria – which is revived by the moisture of water, milk or eggs.  

Normally, to reach a conclusion about an outbreak, the CDC would mine survey data. 

However, flour is not tracked by all questionnaires. So the team tracked down as many of the men, women and children affected by dough as they could (10 people), and interviewed them for hours on end. 

Dr Crowe said he asked as detailed and specific questions as possible, trying to get to the heart of what happened. 

It was complicated, he admitted. Few remember what they had for breakfast today, let alone what they ate months ago. 

But some people had some flickers of memories, and two people even remembered the specific dough, and produced pictures of the ingredients which sickened them.

Initially, Dr Crowe had suspected eggs could be to blame, since they are a classic source of salmonella. But his investigation changed when he saw that the two victims used the same flour.  

Analyzing the flour, the researchers found that it contained a dormant strain of E. coli. 

E. coli tends to fester in moisture, but Dr Crowe found that it can lie hidden in dry products, and is revived when it hits moisture like water or eggs or milk. 

Experts say there are three main options for eliminating this risk. 

First, the US could change the way it produces flour by heating it up before it’s packaged – but this would change the texture which customers seek out. 

Second, manufacturers could blitz it with radiation, as they do to rid pests, but they would need much higher levels of radiation to hit the bacteria. 

Third, home bakers could wait until the cookies are out the oven. 


Many people have eaten cookie dough without any consequences.  

Many have also swallowed raw eggs whole, eaten slightly undercooked scramble, or a cocktail with egg whites, and experienced nothing but satisfaction. 

It’s true that salmonella is not everywhere. About one in 20,000 eggs contains the offending bacteria. 

But there is no telling if yours is dangerous. 

And even if you’re tempted, the CDC is trying to urge Americans that the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Salmonella is a common infection from contaminated food. People who consume it can be left with diarrhea, fever, and cramps.

If the diarrhea is particularly severe or persists for days, the diner may need hospital care.

You’re better off waiting just a few minutes for the cookies to emerge. Make yourself some extra if you’re making them for a later occasion. And if the cooking time is too long for you to resist, find a quicker recipe.