Who among us hasn’t given in to the temptation of eating cake batter just before putting it in the oven to bake. It’s a classic move, especially for children who can’t resist dipping their fingers in the batter or scooping up the scraps that get left in the bowl. However, according to a new study, this really isn’t such a good idea.
Carried out in the United States and published in The New England Journal of Medicine, this study revealed that eating raw dough or batter could open you up to unknown risks of infection. Samuel J. Crowe, the main author of the study, explained to theNew York Times:
We’re not trying to ruin people’s holidays, but we want them to be aware of the risks.
A mysterious epidemic
In order to reach this conclusion, this epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and his colleagues studied no less than 56 cases of infection. Spread out over 24 states in the United States, they were all linked to the particular strain of bacteria known as Escherichia coli, and took place between December 2015 and September 2016.
At the time, this ‘epidemic’ pushed specialists to open an investigation to find a link between all these cases. The majority of patients were found to have eaten raw batter, dough or cookie dough that contained flour before falling ill. A conclusion that surprised researchers.
As it turns out, these strains of the E. coli bacteria responsible produce Shiga-toxins, which tend to grow in humid environments such as hamburger meat and leafy vegetables. But until now, we didn’t know that they could also thrive in a lot drier environments such as flour.
According to the report that explained the investigation that was carried out by specialists, this is indeed the case. Samuel J. Crowe explained:
The bacteria is not uniformly distributed in a two-and-a-half pound bag of flour. A small amount could get you really sick. I’ve had E. coli and salmonella and it’s pretty darn unpleasant.
‘A new view of flour’
Eating raw, uncooked dough exposes you to micro-organisms that are potentially present in the flour. Germs are normally destroyed by baking at high temperatures for a long period of time. The investigation that was carried out in 2016 finally led specialists to a particular brand of flour in a specific flour facility based in Kansas City, Missouri.
However, there were no signs of contamination at this facility, leading investigators to assume that the bacteria could have spread earlier, probably via cattle or wild animals in the wheat fields. By the end, almost five million kilograms of flour were recalled by the American health authorities.
‘It’s a new view of flour,’ said Dr. Marguerite A. Neill from Brown University Medical School who was not involved in this study to the New York Times. Among the 56 cases observed, the majority of people suffered abdominal pains, diarrhea, vomiting and fevers. But one patient developed a more serious renal disorder known as Hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS).
Following these conclusions, specialists are now suggesting that in order to eliminate all risk of contamination, you should avoid eating dough or batter with raw flour in it, and also wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling it.