The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued an order that millions of Americans will likely find impossible to carry out: stop eating raw cookie dough.
“Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, such as cookie dough,” USDA advised in an email over the weekend.
Carrying out that simple 15-word recommendation would radically change millions of lives, from families who routinely bake cookies and invite the kids to scoop batter out of the bowl, to people who scarf down pre-packaged cookie dough, to everyone who eats cookie dough found in ice cream.
Simply put, it’s not immediately clear that America is ready to take on USDA’s mission. But it’s also unclear if it’s necessary — there is something of a debate over whether it’s safe to eat cookie dough, or whether the risk of getting salmonella from raw eggs is too high.
Some, like FoodBeast.com, say it’s “actually really hard to get salmonella from eggs.” The site has an article up noting that bakers routinely eat batter and never get sick, and say the trick is in making sure the eggs are refrigerated.
And cookie dough found in ice cream is pasteurized, making it safe to eat, according to various online food experts.
But many still note the danger, and the 2009 recall of raw dough from Nestle that got dozens of people sick from E. coli. A Las Vegas mother died in 2013 of E. coli after eating raw cookie dough.
EatRight.Org, a group of food and nutritional professionals, sides with USDA, and says people must “resist the cookie dough temptation.”
“Sampling the batter while baking holiday treats may seem like as much of a tradition as singing carols or decorating the house, but eating batter or cookie dough that contains raw eggs can lead to salmonella poisoning,” the group warns.
“It’s especially important to teach children to not eat cookie dough containing raw eggs, as young children are more vulnerable to food poisoning,” it said. “Before you begin cooking with children, discuss the Cookie Rookie Pledge together to help them understand what they can do to stay healthy and happy, and enjoy their cookies too!”
The pledge says kids should wait until cookies are “fully baked” before eaten. “Steer clear of licking spoons, bowls and beaters!” it said.