Batter up! Take your licks wisely.
By: Jodie Shield, RDN
One of my fondest childhood holiday memories is baking sugar cookies with my mom. I loved flattening out the dough with her big wooden rolling pin, then using plastic cookie cutters to stamp out perfect stars, bells, and snowmen. But hands down (and face full of flour!), my favorite part was eating the “unbaked” cookies – that’s right, the raw cookie dough. And it seems I’m not alone. Why else would an ice cream be named cookie dough? But is it really safe to eat the uncooked batter? Not to be a Grinch, but the answer is . . . no. Let me explain.
If you’re making cookies, baking a cake, or preparing some type of recipe like eggnog that uses raw eggs, you are always in danger that the eggs may contain bacteria called salmonella. Most people infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the illness lasts about 4 to 7 days and most people recover without treatment. However, certain people are more at risk than others. Young children (especially those under the age of five), the elderly, and the immune-compromised are the most likely to have severe infections. In fact, they estimate that approximately 400 people die each year from a salmonella infection. If you or a loved one can’t resist licking the batter, using pasteurized eggs or an egg substitute helps eliminate the risk.
Keep in mind, those tubes of raw cookie dough you find in the supermarket refrigerator cases are ready- to-bake not ready-to-eat. Years ago, there was an outbreak of E.coli in some chocolate chip cookie dough that sickened 77Americans in 30 states. Fifty-five were hospitalized; two-thirds of those who fell ill were under the age of 19. The culprit ingredient was most likely the flour because at that time, the flour was not heat-treated like companies do now.
Admittedly, many people have been eating raw cookie dough for years without getting sick. That’s because the risk of salmonella and/or E.coli contamination is relatively low. However, it is still a risk that can be dangerous for many people, especially young children.
Bottom line: Raw cookie dough, whether it’s homemade or store-bought, should be destined for your oven, not your mouth.
For delicious holiday recipes, check out my iTunes app Time to Eat Healthy. I will be donating the December sales to charity.Pick up a few as it makes a terrific holiday gift!