INDIANAPOLIS — Put down the spoon or spatula from the mixing bowl.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it is no longer safe to eat raw cookie dough or batter — even if you're using a recipe that doesn't use raw eggs.
In fact, the administration said in a new consumer update posted Tuesday, it's not safe to eat raw flour in any form. Not homemade "play dough," not licking the spoon of brownie batter. Nothing.
Here's the deal: You know that raw eggs can carry salmonella, which is no good, but it turns out flour can harbor E. Coli, which also is nasty. The FDA says dozens have been sickened by the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121 after they ate raw flour. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 people were infected in 20 states with illnesses starting in December.
According to the FDA, their investigation found that the raw dough that sickened patients had been made with General Mills flour made in a Kansas City, Mo., plant. Tests conducted by the FDA tied bacteria in a sample of flour to bacteria from people who had been sickened.
General Mills recalled flour products made between Nov. 14, 2015, and Dec. 4, 2015, under three brand names: Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Gold Medal Wondra. They included varieties of all-purpose, self-rising and unbleached flours.
Symptoms of this strain of E. coli include bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps. While most people will bounce back within a week, it can even lead to kidney failure, especially among the elderly and children under 5.
It's true flour is not an ingredient most associate with a contamination risk.
"Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," said Leslie Smoot, a senior adviser in the FDA's Office of Food Safety, in a statement.
The FDA said an animal's waste could contaminate grain which is then made into flour. Any bacteria is killed, the agency said, through baking, boiling, roasting and frying. That step doesn't happen with raw dough, the agency said.
Food borne illness outbreaks linked to flour are extremely rare. Seattle food safety lawyer Bill Marler, widely regarded as an expert in the field, said the only other one he could recall was the 2009 recall of Nestle Toll House cookie dough, which was believed to be tied to the flour used to make the dough.
How can you avoid the bacteria? Cook all dough, including cookie dough, cake mix and batter, thoroughly. Wash your hands. Don't give kids raw dough to play with.
You can weep for a tiny sliver of happiness that has evaporated in the name of adulthood and safety.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY. Follow Allison Carter on Twitter: @AllisonLCarter