The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is out with a warning that nobody who likes to eat delicious things wants to read: ” Say No to Raw Dough!” But the truth is that eating raw cookie dough is probably worth the risk for most people.
In a special page dedicated to the issue, CDC ominously cautions, “When you prepare homemade cookie dough, cake mixes, or even bread, you may be tempted to taste a bite before it is fully cooked. But steer clear of this temptation — eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick.”
The CDC goes on to explain that uncooked flour could contain e coli bacteria and that raw eggs pose a risk of getting sick from salmonella. On the surface, those sound pretty bad. That said, it’s important to put things in perspective. Sure, eating cookie dough can make you sick — but it probably won’t.
As far as flour, yes, there was an e coli outbreak in 2016 tied to flour that is believed to have caused 63 people to get sick, and it led to a General Mills flour recall. But that this is not a common occurrence, and even taking it into account, it’s a relatively small number given that Americans consume over 130 pounds of wheat flour per capita each year.
Sure, it’s theoretically possible that a batch of cookie dough you make could contain relatively rare infected eggs or flour, but Americans routinely engage in behaviors that carry risks. Adults and their kids ride bikes, ski, play sports, eat at restaurants whose kitchens they haven’t thoroughly vetted, and so on. They determine ultimately that the fun is worth the risk, so why shouldn’t the same logic apply to cookie dough?
There’s also an issue of degree. If you routinely make large bowls of cookie dough purely for the purpose of consuming it raw, it will increase your odds of getting sick. But if, like most people, you make a batch of cookies and lick some raw leftover dough off of the spoon, the risk of getting sick is statistically low.
Of course, there are no guarantees. Sure, if you’re a generally a risk-averse person, you may decide to err on the side of avoiding consuming raw dough and keep it from your children. But if you decide to indulge in some cookie dough while baking, you shouldn’t feel guilty — you will more likely than not be fine.