I know it’s delicious, but you just shouldn’t eat it raw.

Delicious? Maybe — but cook it before you eat it. Image credits: Geraldine / Wikipedia.

Year after year, the CDC and other health bodies issue warnings about not eating raw cookie dough and the reason is quite simple: it could contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. Salmonella can make its way into eggs, which, if eaten raw, can cause an infection with symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and, abdominal cramps — not something you want during the festive season — or ever.

So cookie dough (like many other products) contains eggs, which in turn can contain Salmonella. If the eggs or egg-containing products are properly cooked, there’s no problem whatsoever. The bacteria are killed and you’re good to go. But if it’s uncooked, then you can get into trouble.

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Raw flour can also contain E. coli, which can also be dangerous. In 2016, a large outbreak of E. coli ­ infections made people sick in 24 states. Ideally, you should periodically check your pantry for recalled products.

“When you’re making cookies, often the recipe calls for raw eggs,” Lindsay Malone, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic, said in 2016. “Whenever you consume raw eggs, you increase your risk of salmonella poisoning.” Malone added that “when there’s a risk for salmonella, you really want to be cautious and take steps to avoid it as much as possible.”

The CDC estimates salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and kills 450 people every year.

“Raw flour is a raw product, and it doesn’t go through any heat treatment before you get it,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, told SELF in 2017. “You should treat that flour like you’re handling raw meat.”

With the season’s holidays right around the corner, it’s an excellent time to spend time with your loved ones, and baking can be an excellent (and very rewarding) pastime.

Say no to raw cookie dough

Here are a few tips recommended by the CDC:

  • Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter, regardless of whether it’s for cookies, pizza, or other products;
  • Don’t let children play with raw cookie dough, even if it’s just for crafts;
  • Bake, bake, bake! Use the proper temperature and instructions;
  • Keep raw foods such as flour or eggs separate from ready-to eat-foods;
  • Follow label directions to refrigerate and cook;
  • Do not use raw, homemade cookie dough in ice cream — the cookie dough in ice creams is pre-treated to ensure it’s safe to eat;
  • Wash your hands with running water and soap after handling flour, raw eggs, or any surfaces that they have touched.

However, there is a workaround: there are edible raw cookie doughs you can find on the market, though accessibility may vary from region to region. These products have been pre-treated so that they are safe to eat raw, but it should say so on the label.