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Eating Cookie Dough Despite Dangers? What a Doctor Wants You to Know

cookie dough
Neha Pathak, MD - Blogs
By Neha Pathak, MDBoard-certified internistDecember 12, 2018

I don’t bake often, but every once in a while I feel the need to dust off the cookie sheets, preheat the oven, and make some delicious homemade treats.

I’ll admit that, even knowing the risks, it can be tempting to taste the ooey-gooey dough before it gets into the oven. But before you stick your fingers in the bowl, keep this in mind: the raw eggs and uncooked flour in dough have the potential to make you very sick.

Raw eggs can harbor Salmonella. This infection can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain, but can be a lot worse for older adults and young children.

And uncooked flour can be a hazard, too. It can be contaminated with germs like E. coli, which can cause diarrhea and stomach pain – certain strains can make you sick enough to be hospitalized. In 2016, the CDC tracked an E. coli outbreak back to uncooked flour that made 63 people sick.

It’s not just the dough you make yourself that can be dangerous – uncooked store-bought refrigerated cookie doughs could make you sick as well.

So is it ever safe to eat cookie dough?

Store-bought cookie dough ice cream has been treated to kill harmful bacteria, so that’s a safe bet. And there are some cookie dough products – made especially for eating as is – that can safely satisfy your cravings. They are made with heat-treated flour and cooked eggs to remove the harmful bacteria and germs.

Follow these CDC-backed tips to stay safe when cooking with raw baking ingredients:

  • Don’t taste raw dough or batter
  • Watch kids if they are playing with dough. Make sure they are old enough to know they need to wash their hands before putting their fingers in their mouths
  • Cook at the proper temperature (see the recipe for instructions)
  • Don’t put raw dough in ice cream (remember: the cookie dough ice cream you buy in the store has been treated to kill harmful bacteria!)
  • Clean hands and surfaces thoroughly after working with raw ingredients
  • Watch for recalled brands of pre-made cake mixes and flour products

Now, maybe you’re thinking “I’ve eaten raw dough plenty of times, and I’ve never gotten sick!” That may very well be true, but that still doesn’t take away the risk of getting sick in the future. Keep yourself healthy so you can enjoy those baked treats. And If you really can’t live without a cookie dough fix, find a cookie dough option made specially to eat.

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About the Author
Neha Pathak, MD

Neha Pathak, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and part of WebMD's team of medical editors responsible for ensuring the accuracy of health information on the site. Before joining WebMD, Pathak worked as a primary care physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs and was an assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta.

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