Surprising cookie dough ingredient that can make you sick

Holiday baking season is upon us. Right on cue comes research cautioning that salmonella from uncooked eggs isn’t the only reason not to nibble raw dough or lick the spoon.

Raw flour is risky too, according to a study that looked into an outbreak of E. coli in 2016 linked to contaminated flour.

“This investigation implicated raw flour as the source of (the) outbreak,” researchers concluded last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Although it is a low-moisture food,” they added, “raw flour can be a vehicle for foodborne pathogens.”

That’s a wake-up call in a couple of ways. E. coli bacteria typically thrive in wet environments.

RELATED: The Best Holiday Cookie Recipe Makeovers 

The Best Holiday Cookie Recipe Makeovers
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The Best Holiday Cookie Recipe Makeovers

Making smart ingredient swaps can help you still enjoy your holiday favorites—minus the morning-after guilt.

Oatmeal Cookies

You don’t need butter and white sugar to make soft and delicious cookies. Instead, use ripened fruit (such as bananas) and oil for a healthy, sweet baking combination, suggests YouBeauty Culinary Expert and chef Jim Perko.

Image Credit: Getty

Better-for-you recipe

3 ripe bananas
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup walnuts—toasted, chopped
¼ cup pecans—toasted, chopped
¼ cup prunes—dried, pitted, no sugar added, chopped
1 cup raisins—yellow or red
2 cup plain, old fashioned oatmeal

Image Credit: Getty


In a large mixing bowl, add and mash bananas with hand masher, then combine and mix in canola oil, vanilla, walnuts, pecans, prunes and raisins. Add oatmeal and mix all ingredients together until well mixed. Using a 1-ounce scoop, measure and drop on to parchment-covered cookie sheet. Slightly push down with fingers to lightly flatten. Bake at 350° F for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool and serve.

Nutrition (per cookie, recipes makes 36):

80 calories
0 mg sodium
0 g saturated fat
5 g sugar

Recipe developed by and courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic.

Image Credit: Flickr

Chocolate Bark

This tasty dessert is just what it sounds like: a slab of regular chocolate and calories. Instead of making the usual sugar-filled treat, use dark chocolate to increase your intake of beauty-boosting antioxidants called flavanols and mix in toasted nuts for some healthy fats, recommends Perko.

Image Credit: Getty

Better-for-you recipe

10 ounces dark chocolate—70 percent cocoa bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
½ cup toasted walnut pieces
½ cup toasted pecan pieces
½ cup toasted almond slices

Image Credit: Getty


Combine chocolate and espresso powder. Place over a double boiler, heating on a low flame while stirring until chocolate is ¾ melted. Then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Next, mix in the toasted nuts. Spread mixture on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Chill until set (about 30 minutes). Break into pieces and serve.

Nutrition (per serving, recipe makes 35 servings; ½ ounce serving size):

70 calories
15 mg sodium
2 g saturated fat
4 g sugar

Recipe developed by and courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic

Image Credit: Getty

Chocolate Chip Cookies

If there’s one cookie you can count on being at every holiday party, it’s the classic chocolate chip. This year, wow your friends and guests with this tasty recipe from Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life. This one uses canned pumpkin (use up those leftover cans sitting in your pantry from Thanksgiving!) and coconut oil instead of butter, as well as flaxseeds for a slight nutty and healthy touch. Bonus: These cookies are vegan, gluten-free and just one cookie is considered an excellent source of vitamin A.

Image Credit: Joseph Erdos, Gastronomer's Guide

Better-for-you recipe

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed soaked in 2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, at room temperature/liquid
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life brand)

Image Credit: Aimee Herring


Make flaxseed/water mixture (it will become sticky/gel-like in 5 minutes). With an electric mixer, combine oil and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, vanilla and flaxseed/water mixture. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients: almond meal, oat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Then stir in mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking dish with parchment paper. Bake 14 to 16 minutes, until golden/firm. Allow to cool completely.

Note: Store cookies in refrigerator for up to 7 days or freeze them.

Nutrition (per cookie, recipe makes 18 cookies):

110 calories

7 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans fat)

50 mg sodium

9 g sugar

Image Credit: Aimee Herring


And while everybody knows that raw eggs can transmit salmonella, which causes food poisoning, the research sheds light on another reason for concern.

“Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria,” says Leslie Smoot, Ph.D., of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Food Safety, which updated its health alert about eating raw dough and raw flour on Nov. 28.

Common symptoms for E. coli linked to raw flour include abdominal cramps and other digestive issues, “although most people recover within a week,” the FDA notes. “But some illnesses last long and can be more severe, even leading to kidney failure regardless of people’s age.”

Parents of young children should be aware of the hazards of clay made from raw dough, experts advise.

“Even if they’re not munching on the dough,” the FDA cautions, “they’re putting their hands in their mouth after handling the dough.”


To stay healthy, follow these FDA tips:

* Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter or any other raw dough or batter product that’s supposed to be cooked or baked.

* Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.

* Wash hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.

* Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination that may be present from spreading. Be aware that flour may spread easily due to its powdery nature.

* Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

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