Handle your raw dough with care

Whether you eat it or craft with it, re-think your habits of handling raw dough.

We have talked for many years about the dangers of eating raw cookie dough. Now, it appears there are more areas of concern involving other types of dough. How many times have you been tempted to sneak a bite of cookie dough before it's baked? Or have you let your children play with raw dough to make ornaments or “play” clay? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you may want to change your craft plans and snacking practices.

The Food and Drug Administration has as released updated information warning consumers to avoid eating any raw dough products before it has been cooked because you or your family member could get sick. Cooking these items kills harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. Everyone should follow cooking directions on packages of cookie dough, pizza dough, biscuits etc., but when it comes to working with flour for crafts or making foods from scratch, regardless of the brand, the flour can contain bacteria that can cause disease. Recently, dozens of people across the country became sickened by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121, resulting in a massive recall of flour.

We usually don’t think of flour as being a possible potentially hazardous food. Flour comes from a grain, which is usually not treated to kill any bacterial it may have contracted. A source of bacteria may have been an animal tracking through a field and depositing animal waste. This animal waste is then harvested and ground into the flour. If someone is consuming raw dough, no kill step has taken place. It is important to remember that common “kill-steps” include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving, and frying.

Symptoms to watch for if you have consumed raw dough products include stomach cramps, fever, vomiting or diarrhea. If you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. It is very easy for anyone to become very ill or die from potential bacterial contamination from raw dough products. A person can be any age and be in good health, but the more susceptible people are those with weakened immune systems (someone very young, the elderly, someone on a particular medicine, such as a transplant recipient). Pregnant women and their unborn babies are at risk as well to these harmful bacteria.

The FDA suggest following these safe-handling practices to stay healthy:

  • Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly before and after contact with raw dough products.
  • Avoid consuming raw cookie dough or any other raw dough that should be baked or cooked.
  • Follow directions for safe cooking at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Follow label directions to refrigerate products immediately after purchase and after preparing or serving them.

Michigan State University Extension suggests watching recall notices and following guidelines when there is a recall. It is also important to re-think some of the past practices with arts and crafts with children, making sure efforts are made to avoid possible contact with raw products.

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