For some, the best part about making cookies isn't the cookies themselves, it's eating the dough. You might even love cookie dough so much you skip the baking process altogether.
Chances are that you've heard that eating raw cookie dough isn't actually safe, though. Chances also are that you've ignored this warning.
But is eating raw cookie dough actually bad — or is that just something you were told growing up to keep you from stealing it all?
According to the CDC, mom was right. It's best to "say no to raw dough."
Why can't you eat raw cookie dough?
If you've been eating cookie dough for years without issue, it can be hard to take the warning seriously. And no parent wants to be the bad guy that says, "No," when your kid asks to lick the mixing spoon and bowl.
Still, here's why it's best for you and your kids to avoid risking it with raw dough or batter:
The raw eggs in cookie dough can be contaminated with Salmonella
Most doughs and batters contain raw eggs, which can be contaminated with an illness-causing germ called Salmonella. It's a common cause of food poisoning in the U.S.
The symptoms of Salmonella infection include:
- Abdominal cramps
If you do get Salmonella poisoning from eating raw cookie dough, symptoms can appear anywhere between 6 hours to 6 days later. What's more, these symptoms can last for four to seven days. (Symptoms like diarrhea for seven days! Yikes!)
In most cases, people get better without treatment. But food poisoning can also become severe, even life-threatening. Certain people are at greater risk for this, including kids, the elderly and people who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.
To prevent getting sick from eating contaminated eggs, the FDA recommends keeping eggs refrigerated and cooking them until the yolks are firm. For that matter, thoroughly cook any foods that contain egg.
The bottom line: It's unsafe to consume raw doughs and batters that contain eggs since the raw egg could be contaminated with Salmonella.
The uncooked flour in cookie dough can be contaminated with E. coli
If you're thinking that choosing an eggless cookie dough recipe makes it safer, think again. It's not just raw eggs that come with a food poisoning risk. Uncooked flour can contain illness-causing bacteria, too.
Indeed, eating raw flour was linked to two recent outbreaks of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121. The outbreaks made a combined total of almost 100 people sick.
Germs like E. coli can contaminate grain either while it's growing in a field or during one of the many food-manufacturing steps needed to turn it into the flour we buy off the shelf.
As a foodborne illness, infection with E. coli causes the following symptoms:
- Stomach cramps
- Diarrhea (usually bloody)
These symptoms can appear anywhere from three to four days later. And while most people recover within a week without treatment, some may develop a serious type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Certain people are at greater risk for this, including kids, the elderly and people who are pregnant or have a weakened immune system.
Similar to raw eggs, thoroughly cooking foods that contain flour removes the risk of getting sick from any illness-causing bacteria that may be present. Also, it's important to note: Even flour labeled as "bleached" can still contain harmful germs.
The bottom line: While you may not think of flour as a "raw" ingredient, it still needs to be cooked before being consumed. Eating uncooked flour increases your risk of developing foodborne illness.
Is store-bought cookie dough any safer to eat?
Homemade dough and batter aside, your favorite commercial cookie dough products must be safe to eat, right?
Manufacturers of premade cookie dough products do take steps to make these raw ingredients safer, including heat-treating flour and pasteurizing eggs.
However, while some manufacturers add "safe to eat raw" labels, others add disclaimers on ready-to-bake cookie packaging that discourages consuming raw dough. And you might also not find any safety information whatsoever on some products, such as cookie dough ice creams or snackable cookie dough bites.
Before eating premade cookie dough, the CDC recommends reading the product's packaging to ensure that it's labeled as safe to consume raw.