A recent multi-state outbreak of E. coli was not caused by raw eggs or dairy products, but instead to raw flour in prepackaged cookie dough, according to new research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The study found that a 2009 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that hit several states was due to contaminated ready-to-bake prepackaged cookie dough that can be found in many grocery stores.
At the time of the outbreak, 77 people from 30 states became ill from the bad batter. About half of those people got so sick they had to be hospitalized, according to ABC News.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to say what ingredient in the cookie dough caused the 2009 outbreak, but the CDC's Karen Neil told ABC News that it was probably the flour, because "raw" flour does not go through the same process to kill pathogens as other commercial products do, such as eggs, molasses and sugar.
CDC researchers have recommended manufacturers make the packed raw dough safer as a ready-to-eat product, since eating cookie dough is such a popular pastime, although the agency also notes that more consumer education is needed about the risks of eating raw products such as cookie dough, ABC News reports.
E. coli O157:H7 is a bacteria that can cause severe abdominal cramping, followed by diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, it is possible for some people to develop a form of kidney failure.
Raw Cookie Dough Linked to E. Coli Outbreak [ABC News]
A Novel Vehicle for Transmission of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to Humans: Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Associated With Consumption of Ready-to-Bake Commercial Prepackaged Cookie Dough—United States, 2009 [Clinical Infectious Diseases]
Multistate Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections Linked to Eating Raw Refrigerated, Prepackaged Cookie Dough [CDC]