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CAUTION! Don't eat the raw cookie dough

health and fitness Updated: Dec 13, 2011 17:27 IST
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If you like to snack on prepackaged cookie dough before it hits the oven, a new report should sway you otherwise.

Published last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, an investigation reveals that the dangers are much worse than previously thought.

Raw, ready-to-bake cookie dough can contain pathogens such as E. coli, according to the new study from the United States based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CookiesScientists investigated outbreaks of E. coli in the United States and traced the illness of 77 people around the country to their habit of eating raw prepackaged cookie dough. Of the 77, 35 people had to be hospitalized.

Further research tracked down the specific eating habits of 36 of those who became ill, and found the culprit to be cookie dough in all 36 cases.

"What our report shows is that you shouldn't eat cookie dough raw, no matter where it comes from," said the study's lead author Dr. Karen Neil, a medical epidemiologist.

In 2009, Swiss food giant Nestlé pulled 3.6 million packages of cookie dough from shelves in the United States after the presence of E. coli bacteria was discovered in products produced by a United States factory.

While homemade cookie dough usually contains raw eggs, which can increase exposure to the salmonella virus, most store-bought cookie dough contains eggs that have been pasteurized to reduce pathogens.

However, other ingredients could contain pathogens or bacteria, and the scientists in the new report suggest the culprit may be flour, since it does not undergo a Kill Step to kill pathogens that may be present.

E. coli is a food borne bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe cases, kidney failure.