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What Makes Traditional Raw Cookie Dough Dangerous?

Every year around this time, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reminds us not to eat the raw cookie dough in our holiday mixing bowls, because it can make you sick. And—as much as we may want to ignore it—they’re right raw cookie dough can make you sick. That’s what Al Roker, Jenna Bush Hager, and Sheinelle Jones discussed on the TODAY Show yesterday.

We were so happy to be featured on the show, to share our brownie batter and chocolate chip flavors with the cast, and to hear that Sheinelle is already a fan! For those of you watching and wondering “why do they keep talking about flour?!” I have your answer.

Like I said, the CDC is right cookie dough is a raw product and it’s not safe to eat unless all the raw ingredients have been treated. Eggs are the obvious one. They can carry dangerous bacteria that is easily eliminated through pasteurization. But what you—and it appears, Al Roker—may not know is that raw flour is another dangerous product in traditional raw cookie dough.

Flour is considered a “field product,” meaning it comes straight from the field to the consumer without undergoing a treatment process. Basically, imagine a large farm with rain and wind and birds flying overhead and critters scampering here and there. There isn’t a step in the milling process that gets rid of anything those creatures may have left behind in the field before the flour goes to the grocery store (yuck!). As a result, flour is a known carrier of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. E. coli is definitely not a bacteria you want to mess with, especially with young children, the elderly, pregnant women, or anyone with a weakened immune system.

Once the flour makes its way from the field to your counter, it is typically used slowly over weeks or months, giving any bacteria that may be present ample time to grow in the flour. Since dishes that use flour are usually cooked or baked, that bacteria is killed, and won’t cause any problems. But if you eat it raw (like you know licking it off a spatula…) you’re putting yourself, and anyone else stealing a taste, at risk.

That’s why here at DŌ we treat BOTH the flour and the eggs in all of our recipes. (We also specially treat all other “field products” like oats and cake mix.) People of all ages can dig right in without a worry, that’s the kind of holiday joy we love!