A rubber spatula was often all that stood between me and the raw cookie dough left in my mother's mixing bowls when she was making cookies from scratch. If she didn't use the spatula to scrape the bowls clean, I could swipe my finger around the inside of each one and taste the pure delight of her peanut butter thumbprint and butter ball cookies before they even came out of the oven. Those were the days….
Now we have Certificates of Achievement for parents and grandparents to issue to their young'uns who pledge not to yield to the temptation of raw cookie dough.
What's So Bad About Raw Cookie Dough?
It isn't just cookie dough, it's any uncooked dough or batter. That includes brownie batter, another personal favorite when I was growing up, cake batter and biscuit dough, too. And it isn't just the mixtures containing raw eggs. Raw eggs are a potential source of salmonella, but other ingredients, such as flour, can also become contaminated with bacteria, so must be heated to be sure they're safe.
Is Ready-to-Bake Dough Any Better?
A dough or batter that has not been cooked can contain harmful bacteria, even if it has been properly refrigerated until you open the package. Any of the ingredients can become contaminated during their own journey from farm to factory, then during manufacturing they can be exposed to pathogens in the processing plant or from the workers on the assembly line.
There is also the possibility your dough picked up an organism when being rolled out on your kitchen counter or from the little hands helping you decorate the gingerbread men. To prevent that, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has developed some simple safety steps to follow when making cookies with kids for the holidays.
What About All That Raw Dough We Ate in the Past?
There was a serious outbreak of E.coli from a popular brand of raw cookie dough back in 2009 that sickened 77 people in 30 states. The flour used in the dough was the source. Since then many manufacturers have switched to heat treated flour to be on the safe side. This move was prompted, in part, by the fact most of the people who became sick from eating the contaminated dough said they never had any intention of cooking it. They were mostly young women under the age of 19. Apparently raw dough is still a delicacy to teenage girls.
Fortunately, those chewy little balls in cookie-dough flavored ice cream are not really raw dough. They have been treated to destroy any bacteria so those with an insatiable desire for cookies-in-the-raw can enjoy it surrounded by another all-time favorite, sweet ice cream.
And in case a winter storm knocks out your electricity while baking your holiday treats, be sure to follow these Food Safety Rules When You Lose Refrigerator Power.