Recall Alert

As kids, many of us loved sneaking a bit of raw cookie dough or cake batter from the bowl while our moms were baking. Last week’s product recall of flour by General Mills should be a cautionary tale to those of us who let our kids do it.

The food giant announced that some 38 people throughout 20 states may have contracted E. coli food poisoning caused by three of the company’s brands of flour, including its iconic Gold Medal brand. Batches of Gold Medal Wondra and Signature were also included in the recall.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reiterates Warnings

Generally, flour is not a cause of E. coli outbreaks, because, as the company says, it’s “rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling.” That’s why it’s believed that some of the people who became ill may have eaten raw dough or batter. About half of the people who were sickened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had baked something that contained flour.

The CDC warns against eating raw batter or dough and recommends that “children not be provided raw dough to play with.” However, the agency also notes the importance of using “safe food-handling practices when preparing such products,” including washing your hands as well as utensils and surfaces that have touched them, cooking or baking food at the proper temperatures and properly refrigerating these items.

This isn’t the first instance of an E. coli outbreak linked to raw dough. In 2009, Nestle issued a recall of its Toll House cookie dough when over 70 people throughout 30 states contracted a deadly variety of E. coli. The strain of E. coli involved in the General Mills recall is also one of the more serious ones -- particularly for children, seniors and those whose immune systems are compromised.

New Technology Is Helping Prevent Contamination

There is some good news on the horizon when it comes to preventing food contamination. According to one food safety expert, the Food and Drug Administration is putting new regulations into place this fall to increase manufacturers’ accountability and the FDA’s powers to take action against them. She also says that “we’ve got technology like whole genome sequencing that’s helping identify outbreaks more quickly than in the past.”

Reporting illnesses that you believe may have been contracted from food is essential not just for potentially being able to receive compensation for medical bills and other expenses. It can also save others from being sickened or worse by