Study: Raw pie batter dangerous

Study: Raw pie batter dangerous

Geschreven door Nathan Albers

Geschatte leestijd: 4 minutenLicking the Beaters and Bowl Clean for Cake Batter is a Traditional Part of the Baking Process. However, There Are Some Dangers Associated With This Domestic Scene. E. coli Bacteria Can Put a Damper on the Christmas Spirit.

Cake Batter

Baking for the holidays is delightful, but getting sick from cookie dough or cake batter is less festive.

I love baking. From simple cakes of a German doctor to the homemade three-layer Assassins Creed cake for my daughter’s birthday. Licking the beaters and the cake batter bowl was especially when she was younger, a fixed part of the cooking process. However, I was always mindful of the type of batter I had used. She didn’t get batter with eggs, after all, they were still raw. However, it now appears that eggs are not the only risk factor in cake batter.

Uncooked Flour Hazardous

It’s the flour itself that you (also) need to be careful about. This is evidenced, among other things, by a study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine [1].

Last summer, an E. coli epidemic broke out across multiple states in the US. In 24 different states, 56 people fell ill, a quarter of whom had to be hospitalized. Symptoms ranged from mild abdominal pain and slight fever to vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

Doctors, clinics, FDA and CDC staff, everyone went to work to find the source. A disease germ could be discovered from samples of stool. Initially, chocolate cookies were thought to be the cause, but because the bakers had used different brands, the cookies could be ruled out. From the questions asked to patients, it emerged that they all used raw flour during baking. Some patients still had the (empty) bags of flour they had used.

The source was ultimately found in a General Mills factory in Kansas City [2]. The raw flour used there turned out to be the culprit. This bacterium, which normally feels at home in moist environments, can apparently also flourish in dry conditions. Ultimately, 250 different flour-containing products from the company (including cake mixes) were recalled.

It’s quite surprising that a dry powder that can sit on the shelf for months contains a living microorganism that doesn’t ruin the flour itself but can make people sick. This means that many more types of cake batter are dangerous than just those with raw eggs. During the E. coli outbreak last year in the US, children also became ill after receiving Play-Doh in a restaurant or raw tortilla dough to play with.

So, besides avoiding licking the beaters and cake batter bowl, it is also recommended to wash your hands well in hot, soapy water after working with flour. After cooking, the risks are removed because any pathogens are killed by the heat.

According to this new insight, you should actually treat flour like raw chicken.

Bakers Beware

No contamination was found in the Kansas City factory and its staff. The researchers therefore suspected that the contamination had already occurred earlier, namely through the feces of cattle and deer roaming through wheat fields. This would mean that such an E. coli contamination could happen again.

Despite last year’s major recall action for all contaminated flour from Kansas, the message about the danger in flour itself was not widely disseminated. A spokesperson for General Mills emphasizes that as a manufacturer, they can do little to prevent this. By preheating the flour, you change its properties during later baking. For example, its ability to rise. So, it’s up to the consumer to be aware of the risk and take it into account.

Cookie Dough

It was not the first time such an E. coli outbreak occurred with cake batter, or rather cookie dough, as the cause.

Cookie dough is particularly popular among Americans as a ready-to-eat product. You can buy it in various flavors, for example in a tube that you keep in the refrigerator. In 2009, the dough for Toll House cookies by Nestlé turned out to be the cause of illness in 69 people in 29 different states [3]. Of these, 34 people had to be hospitalized, 9 with serious complaints.

This was followed by a major recall and closure of the factory in Davnvil, Virginia, which turned out to be the source. However, the cause was not found in the factory itself or among the staff. The researchers concluded that it was probably one of the ingredients used. Because other ingredients in the dough could be excluded through the processing process, the researchers identified flour as the main suspect. However, they could not prove it [4].

At the time, 54-year-old Linda Rivera was one of the people who had eaten the raw cookie dough. She collapsed with acute kidney failure and liver failure and had to be operated on immediately. She fought the bacteria that had to be cut out several times for four years. In 2013, she died from the consequences of the infection [5].

It’s an exceptional story, especially considering that most victims of that first outbreak were women between 1 and 19 years old. Nestlé settled with Linda’s survivors for an undisclosed amount. In 2010, they changed the cookie dough preparation process by preheating the flour [6]. Apparently, Nestlé isn’t worried that this will change the properties during baking.

In May of this year, the first cookie dough bar opened in the Netherlands. On the Bakers Dough website, we can fortunately read that the flour is preheated to exclude such risks. However, if an increase in popularity means that we will no longer put the cake or pie in the oven, then a warning is in place.

Happy Holidays!


  1. Shiga Toxin–Producing E. coli Infections Associated with Flour.Samuel J. Crowe, Ph.D., M.P.H., Lyndsay Bottichio, M.P.H., Lauren N. Shade, B.S., Brooke M. Whitney, Ph.D., Nereida Corral, M.P.H., Beth Melius, M.N., M.P.H., Katherine D. Arends, M.P.H., Danielle Donovan, M.S., Jolianne Stone, M.P.H., Krisandra Allen, M.P.H., Jessica Rosner, M.P.H., Jennifer Beal, M.P.H., Laura Whitlock, M.P.H., Anna Blackstock, Ph.D., June Wetherington, M.S., Lisa A. Newberry, Ph.D., Morgan N. Schroeder, M.P.H., Darlene Wagner, Ph.D., Eija Trees, D.V.M., Ph.D., Stelios Viazis, Ph.D., Matthew E. Wise, M.P.H., Ph.D., and Karen P. Neil, M.D., M.S.P.H.N Engl J Med 2017; 377:2036-2043November 23, 2017DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1615910
  2. cdc.gov/ecoli/2016/o121-06-16/index.html
  3. washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/29/AR2009062903813.html
  4. Karen P. Neil, Gwen Biggerstaff, J. Kathryn MacDonald, Eija Trees, Carlota Medus, Kimberlee A. Musser, Steven G. Stroika, Don Zink, Mark J. Sotir; 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, Volume 54, Issue 4, 15 February 2012, Pages 511–518
  5. nydailynews.com/news/national/son-recalls-mom-agonizing-death-eating-cookie-dough-article-1.2011634
  6. nestleusa.com/media/pressreleases/nestl%C3%A9-responds-to-reports-cookie-dough

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