Warnings over raw cake batter food poisoning risk

Uncooked flour could cause food poisoning, US experts have claimed.
Uncooked flour could cause food poisoning, US experts have claimed.
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Enjoying a sneaky lick of the spoon when baking a cake could become a thing of the past after new food standards guidelines have warned that eating uncooked flour could cause severe food poisoning.

The American Food and Drug Administration warned people against eating raw cake batter or cookie dough following an investigation into an E.coli outbreak in the US in 2016 where flour was found to be the cause. Dozens of people in the US are believed to have fallen ill after eating or handling raw dough made from flour made in a mill in Kansas City, Missouri.

American experts added that children in nurseries should not use homemade modelling clay created from flour, while bakers should thoroughly clean surfaces after rolling out pastry or cookie dough or using flour - and never eat raw batter.

Previously raw batter warnings have related to fears over the presence of salmonella in eggs, a bug which has been essentially stamped out in most commercially produced eggs following the introduction of a vaccination programme in hens since the 1990s.

Symptoms associated with E.coli can include stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and in extreme cases, can prove fatal.

Food Standards Scotland said that ingredients which are meant to be cooked should be heated thoroughly before eating.

A spokesman said: “Food Standards Scotland is not aware of any cases of food poisoning resulting from the use of flour in Scotland. However, our advice is that good hygiene practices should take place within the home, including always washing your hands before and after handling food in the kitchen and making sure your food is cooked properly.”

Jenny Scott, a senior advisor in FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition said: “Flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria that cause disease. In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, investigated an outbreak of infections that illustrated the dangers of eating raw dough.”

An advisory notice added: “People often understand the dangers of eating raw dough due to the presence of raw eggs and the associated risk with Salmonella. However, consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E.coli in a product like flour.”

The FDA’s new guidance explained that that flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria. If bacteria from animal waste has contaminated the grain in the field, it is then harvested and milled into flour, which is not processed in any way which could kill the bacteria.