Cookie Season in the Midst of Flour Recalls
Dec 13, 2019
By Jonan Pilet, Food Safety News on December 13, 2019
Most people know it’s unsafe to eat raw dough, but most only think of the dangers of raw eggs and the risk of Salmonella. In light of recent flour recalls, it’s important to remember that raw flour can be just as dangerous as raw eggs. There have been two separate flour recalls this week alone, due to possible E.coli contamination.
Illinois company Hudson Mill launched a recall of an unrevealed volume of all-purpose flour because test results showed contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The flour was distributed nationwide. United Natural Foods, Incorporated recalled of an unknown volume of “Wild Harvest” organic flour because government test results showed the potential for contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The company reported distributing the implicated 5-pound bags of flour nationwide.
Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs. Harmful germs can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or during our steps of production. Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked.
Baking cookies is a great family activity for all ages during the holidays. However, this also means that the people most susceptible to food poisoning can come in direct contact with harmful bacteria.
Tips from the FDA and CDC on baking and cooking with flour:
- Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, or crafts made with raw flour, such as homemade play dough or holiday ornaments.
- Do not let children play with raw dough. Even if they aren’t eating the dough, they may be putting their hands in their mouths after handling the dough.
- Bake or cook raw dough and batter completely before eating.
- Follow the recipe or package directions for cooking or baking at the proper temperature and for the specified time.
- 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 bacteria.
- Keep raw foods such as flour or 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 cooked.
- Clean up thoroughly after handling flour, eggs, or raw dough:
- Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces they have touched.
- Wash bowls, utensils, countertops, and other surfaces with warm, soapy water.
About Salmonella infections
Food contaminated with Salmonella bacteria does not usually look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has eaten any recalled products or ground beef from other suppliers and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.
Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.
About E. coli infections
The symptoms of E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually not lower than 101 degrees F (38.5 degrees C). Most patients recover within five to seven days. Others can develop severe or even life-threatening symptoms and complications.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening kidney failure complication, known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor.
Many people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent injuries or die. This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old because of their immature immune systems, older adults because of deteriorating immune systems, and people with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients.
People who experience HUS symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. People with HUS should be hospitalized because it can cause other serious and ongoing problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, brain damage and neurologic problems.