Cookie dough is a gooey blend of butter (or oil), sugar, flour, egg, and other ingredients that add flavor, like chocolate chips or peanut butter. Raw cookie dough can be a delicious treat, and many people prefer the dough to the actual baked cookies. You can also see lots of products that contain cookie dough chunks, like ice cream, candy, milkshakes and protein bars. But have you ever wondered whether raw dough is really safe to eat?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says absolutely not. Cookie dough contains raw eggs, and eggs can carry Salmonella, a bacteria which causes the illness salmonellosis. A Salmonella infection tends to cause flu-like symptoms along with diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. A severe case can lead to dehydration, which may require hospitalization. Typhoid fever is actually a severe infection from the Salmonella typhi bacteria. Although deaths from salmonellosis are rare, the elderly, the very young, and people who have a compromised immune system are most at risk. For some people, there are ongoing side affects of salmonellosis including something called reactive arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune condition that is a painful and debilitating.
Fortunately, though, not all the news about cookie dough is bad. If cookie dough is made with pasteurized eggs or without any eggs, it can be perfectly safe to eat. Pasteurized eggs are eggs which have been heated to a high enough temperature to kill bacteria. Pasteurized eggs are safe to consume raw, and the cookie dough chunks in ice-cream, for example, are always made with pasteurized eggs.
Cookie dough can also be made without eggs, but they will need a substitute ingredient to serve as a binding agent. Hampton Creek is a food technology company that has developed a plant-based egg substitute for cookie dough. Their dough is made with an ingredient derived from sorghum that not only works like an egg but also adds sweetness. If you want to buy pre-made cookie dough that you can safely eat right out of the container, look for Hampton Creek’s Just Cookie Dough Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip flavors in Target stores.