For many of us, one of our earliest baking memories include snatching a bite of raw cookie dough. Unfortunately, bacteria in raw dough can cause serious illness and even death. Before you allow your children to carry on the tradition of eating raw cookie dough, be sure you understand the risks involved.
Science Behind Bacteria
Eating raw dough can expose you to two types of bacteria: salmonella and E. coli. Both types of bacteria can cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea. In severe cases, E. coli can cause kidney failure and death. Both types of bacteria are heat sensitive and are destroyed at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
Salmonella From Contaminated Eggs
Doughs containing raw eggs, such as cookie doughs, carry the risk of salmonella contamination. You cannot tell if an egg is contaminated with salmonella just by looking at it. The only way to be sure that the eggs you bake with are safe to eat raw is to use pasteurized ones. When you bake the dough, the internal temperature rises to at least 160 degrees F, destroying the salmonella bacteria.
E. Coli From Flour
An E. coli outbreak in the summer of 2009 presented a new source of illness-causing bacteria in raw dough: 77 people became ill after eating packaged cookie dough. The source of these illnesses was eventually traced to E. coli bacteria, probably in the flour. Flour is largely untreated from the point that it is ground until you use it to make dough, and there are opportunities for contamination to occur between the farm and your oven.
Baking Dough Kills Bacteria
When you bake bread, cookies or other items, their internal temperature should rise above 160 degrees F by the time they are done. This is sufficient to kill both salmonella and E. coli bacteria. If you want to be sure, use a probe thermometer inserted into the center of your dough. This will give you a constant temperature reading without requiring you to open the oven door, which could interfere with proper baking.
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