Update July 26, 2016: General Mills has expanded its voluntary recall of bags of flour sold under the brand names Signature Kitchens and Gold Medal flour. General Mills announced its first recall in May amid an E. coli outbreak linked to flour produced in its Kansas City, MO plant. This is the third recall of more than 45 million pounds of flour produced at the plant from November 4, 2015 to February 10 of this year. Four more cases of infection have been reported, now totaling 46 reported cases of E. coli linked to the contaminated flour. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, one person has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. General Mills and the CDC continue to urge consumers not to consume batter or raw dough made from recalled flour or any other flour.
Who can say no to cookie dough? It may not be one of the five food groups, but chocolate chip cookies, and their predecessor the beloved cookie dough, are a staple for baked good connoisseurs everywhere. Who hasn’t popped a tiny nibble (or if we’re honest, a huge chunk) of raw cookie dough before putting a batch in the oven? Well the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants everyone to cease and desist—no more uncooked dough or batter of any kind—for anyone. And it’s not due to the eggs in the raw batter; it’s the flour in the dough that is making a lot of people sick.
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The FDA’s latest message for consumers is a clear warning to stop snacking on uncooked dough or batter after an E. coli outbreak has infected 38 people in 20 states. In its consumer update, it also warns parents to avoid making homemade “play” clays or flour crafts because the bacteria can still be transmitted to children via their hands, even if they don’t eat or get the dough near their mouths.
While most consumers might easily understand the risks of eating raw eggs in raw batter and dough, they might not be aware that flour, which is not treated for bacteria, is also at risk for contamination and can lead to disease. This warning comes after the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated an outbreak of infections by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121. Tests by the FDA linked the contaminated flour that caused the outbreak to the General Mills Kansas City facility where the flour was produced.
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General Mills has conducted a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour sold under the brand names Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Gold Medal Wondra. But in order to safeguard against more outbreaks, the FDA warns consumers to put down the spoon and refrain from eating the raw stuff. The agency is clear to differentiate between what is considered raw cookie dough and products that intentionally include the ingredient, like cookie dough ice cream. The flour and egg in those products have been pasteurized and therefore are deemed safe for consumption (phew!).
This post was originally published in June 2016. It has been updated.
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