One of the great ways to celebrate the festive season and special occasions is spending time with family while baking. Baking delicacies like cookies, brownies, cakes, or bread with family might cause temptation to take a bite before it is properly baked. Unfortunately, people can get sick after eating or tasting unbaked dough or batter, especially children who get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts.
At first glance, flour does not look like raw food, but the truth is that it is. This translates that flour has not been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, such as Escherichia coli, commonly known as E. coli. Processes like grinding grain and bleaching flour do not in any way kill harmful germs, and these germs can end up in flour or baking mixes purchased at the store. It is possible to get sick if unbaked dough or batter made with flour containing germs is consumed. Germs are killed only when food made with flour is baked in the oven or cooked.
To further buttress that raw flour can cause food poisoning, CDC investigated outbreaks of E. coli infections linked to raw flour or cake mix in 2016, 2019, and 2021. Some of these investigations led to recalls. Flour and baking mixes containing flour have long shelf lives, meaning the mixes do not get spoiled easily, so it is advised to throw out any flour or baking mixes that have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration in recent years.
These practices should be followed to prevent food poisoning when baking and cooking with flour and other raw ingredients:
1. It is advisable not to taste or eat any raw batter or dough. This comprises dough or batter for cookies, brownies, cakes, pie crusts, tarts, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade dough or holiday ornaments.
2. It is best not to allow children to play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
3. Raw dough, including cookie dough, cake mix, and batter, should be mixed properly and baked before consumption.
4. It is also recommended that the recipe or instructions on the packaging of raw mixes should be followed while cooking or baking. Also, use the instructed temperature according to the cooking or baking time.
5. Raw foods like flour and eggs should be separated from ready-to-eat foods because flour is a powder, it can spread easily to other foods.
6. It is best to follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are baked or cooked. An example of such raw products is store-bought cookie dough.
Lastly, after handling flour, eggs, raw dough, or batter, it is necessary to clean up thoroughly—proper washing of hands with soap and water after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces. Baking bowls, utensils, countertops, and other surfaces should be washed with warm, soapy water in order to avoid getting germs into the baked goods.