December 11, 2018
Lately it seems like there's a buzzkill health reason why you shouldn't participate in just about every holiday tradition. Trying to get a kiss under the mistletoe? Germs. Want to hit up the holiday office party? Alcohol might only make you feel worse. About to bake some holiday cookies? Don’t eat that tempting raw dough.
The CDC is here to remind us all of that last bit of sad advice in an article published earlier this month. While you’re mixing up the perfect batter for your favorite holiday cookies, the CDC says, please resist the urge to nibble.
Yes, you’ve heard this recommendation before, and, let's be honest, it hasn’t stopped you. But hear us out: It’s not necessarily the raw eggs you have to worry about. (Surprising, right?!)
Turns out, it could be the flour in your dough that’s the biggest concern when it comes to health safety. Flour, according to the CDC, is often raw, meaning it hasn’t been treated to kill any germs. Raw flour can spread E. coli, a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps—aka food poisoning. It’s only cooking the flour into your tasty finished product that kills the bacteria. In fact, in 2016, an E. coli outbreak linked to raw flour sickened 63 people, according to the CDC.
Of course, that doesn't mean eggs are entirely off the hook. When raw or undercooked, they can be a delivery system for another type of bacteria linked to food poisoning: Salmonella. Earlier in 2018, 45 people were sickened by Salmonella in an outbreak linked to eggs, and 11 people were hospitalized.
Seriously, what can we eat?
Is raw cookie dough more dangerous than romaine lettuce?
These days, the words "E. coli outbreak" make most of us think of romaine lettuce. An outbreak tied to the leafy green from the Central Coastal growing regions of northern and central California has sickened 52 people, including 19 who needed to be hospitalized.
In the wake of the Great Romaine Panic of 2018, public health experts wondered if perhaps the FDA and the CDC went a little too far in suggesting no romaine be consumed whatsoever. The risk of foodborne illness is real, of course–but the small numbers of people who actually fall sick from any of these sources mean that risk is still extremely low, experts argued.
What about cookie dough you're supposed to eat?
It all comes down to killing those potentially dangerous germs before they're delivered straight to your mouth. Commercially available cookie dough is often made without eggs at all or with pasteurized egg products, where bacteria have been killed off by heat. The flour in these products is also usually heat-treated so there aren't germs to worry about there either.
Still prefer to make something you can lick right out of the bowl at home? Try an eggless, flourless dough—and ditch the oven completely. We’re partial to this protein-packed chickpea cookie dough recipe (yes, chickpeas!) from Joyful Healthy Eats. Holiday "baking" saved!