The holidays are upon us and for many that means family time in the kitchen preparing delicious baked goods and maybe even licking the spoon before the cookies go into the oven. So the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put out a warning this week to, “Say No To Raw Dough!”
Dr. Todd Ellerin -- who admits he doesn’t bake -- said it’s the raw flour and uncooked eggs that can make us sick.
“People may not be aware that flour is not treated to destroy bacteria and there have been outbreaks of a certain type of E. coli linked to the ingestion of raw dough,” said Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Massachusetts and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
In 2016, an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick.
Ellerin warned that “complications of this type of E. coli can include bloody diarrhea, need for prolonged hospitalization, and kidney failure, breakdown of red blood cells that carry oxygen.”
Additionally, raw eggs that are used to make raw dough or batter can contain a germ called salmonella that can make you sick if the eggs are eaten raw or not cooked enough.
Like untreated flour, eggs are safe to eat when cooked and handled properly.
“Baked goods are delicious, but only once they come out of an oven,” said Elisa Strauss, the celebrity baker and author of “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook: Spectacular Cookies, Cakes and Cupcakes from New York City’s Famed Bakery, and “Confetti Cakes for Kids.”
As part of her culinary education she had to learn about food safety.
“I’m all about the fun and taste of baked goods, but I don’t eat raw batter and I don’t allow my children to eat raw batter either,” said the mother of three.
Kim Powers is the senior writer for ABC News’ 20/20 and the published author of three books, but his true love may be baking.
“I basically got into baking so I could lick the bowl first. I did it first decades ago, when I’d lick the spoon when my mother was baking," he said.
"Now, I have a Kitchen Aid mix-master of my own, and have graduated to licking the entire bowl,” said Powers, the reigning, two-time baker-of-the-year for the annual ABC News office cookie bake off.
“It takes me back to good memories of childhood. That’s worth the risk of a little salmonella!”
We should point out that the CDC says Salmonella symptoms typically include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. In most cases, illness lasts 4 to 7 days and people recover without antibiotics. Illness from Salmonella bacteria can be serious and is more dangerous for older adults, infants, and people with weakened immune systems.
Dr. Ellerin wants people to have a nice holiday season and doesn’t want to ruin Kim’s fun in the kitchen, but has a wish for one and all, “We are used to hearing Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas, but in the kitchen as we are preparing to make cookies, it should be Ho Ho Ho, please avoid the raw dough!”
Eric M. Strauss (@ericMstrauss) is the Managing Editor of the ABC News Medical Unit and the older brother of Elisa Strauss.