What You Need to Know
- Don’t taste or eat raw (unbaked) dough or batter.
- Don’t let children handle raw dough, including play clay and dough for crafts.
- Uncooked flour and raw eggs can contain germs that can make you sick if you taste raw dough.
- Wash your hands, bowls, utensils, and countertops after handling raw flour, eggs, or dough.
Baking is a great way to celebrate special occasions. When making cookies, brownies, cakes, or bread, you might be tempted to taste a bite before it’s fully baked. But you can get sick after eating or tasting raw (unbaked) dough or batter. Anyone, including young children, can also get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay. Follow these safety tips to help you and your loved ones stay healthy when preparing and handling raw dough.
Raw Dough Can Contain Germs That Make You Sick
Flour doesn’t look like a raw food, but most flour is raw. That means it hasn’t been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella. These harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or flour while it’s being made. Steps like grinding grain and bleaching flour don’t kill harmful germs—and these germs can end up in flour or baking mixes you buy at the store. You can get sick if you eat unbaked dough or batter made with flour containing germs. Germs are killed only when flour is baked or cooked.
CDC investigated outbreaks linked to raw flour or cake mix in 2016, 2019, 2021, and 2023. Some of these investigations led to recalls. Flour and baking mixes containing flour have long shelf lives, meaning they do not go bad quickly. It’s a good idea to check your pantry to see if you have any flour or baking mixes that have been recalled in recent years (search FDA’s recall list). Throw away any recalled flour or baking mixes you have.
Raw eggs are another ingredient in dough and batter that can make you or your loved ones sick. Raw and lightly cooked eggs can contain Salmonella, a germ that causes food poisoning. Find out how to handle and cook eggs properly.
Some companies make edible cookie dough and brownie batter that you can find in stores. These products are made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs. Read the label carefully to make sure the dough is meant to be eaten without baking or cooking.
Stay Safe When Handling Flour and Eggs
Follow these practices to prevent food poisoning when you are baking and cooking with flour and eggs.
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter. This includes dough or batter for cookies, brownies, cakes, pie crusts, tortillas, pizza, biscuits, pancakes, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.
- Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.
- Bake raw dough (such as cookie dough) and batter (such as cake mix) before eating.
- Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking. Use the temperature and cooking time given in the recipe or directions.
- Do not make milkshakes with products that contain raw flour, such as cake mix.
- Do not use raw homemade cookie dough in ice cream.
- Cookie dough ice cream sold in stores contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful germs.
- Keep raw foods, such as flour and eggs, separate from ready-to-eat foods. Because flour is a powder, it can spread easily.
- Follow label directions to refrigerate products containing raw dough or eggs until they are baked or cooked (for example, store-bought cookie dough).
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces they have touched.
- Wash bowls, utensils, countertops, and other surfaces with hot, soapy water.
Recognize Food Poisoning Symptoms
Food poisoning symptoms may range from mild to severe and can differ depending on the germ you swallowed.
Symptoms of E. coli infection include stomach cramps that can be severe, diarrhea that can be bloody, and vomiting. Symptoms usually start 3 to 4 days after swallowing the germ and usually go away within 1 week. However, some people develop an illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious condition that can cause kidney failure.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and vomiting. Symptoms usually start 6 hours to 6 days after swallowing the germ and usually go away within 4 to 7 days.
Some groups of people have a greater chance of infection and severe illness. These groups include children younger than 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.