Treat it like meat

  • Wash your hands before and after handling.
  • Avoid cross contamination.
  • Cook thoroughly.

What am I talking about?  Believe or not….flour.

Generally we don’t  think of flour as a “risky” food, but some food safety specialists are now suggesting that we start treating flour like we would raw meat.  There have been several recalls within the past few years linking flour to pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella.

To most, flour seems dry and harmless, but we need to remember that it is not a “ready-to-eat” food. It is made from milling wheat which is a raw agricultural product that has been (obviously) grown outdoors where it could have been contaminated. This leaves the potential that “raw” flour may contain bacteria that could make someone sick. Flour should be heated before consumed.  When baking with flour, using baking mixes and other flour-containing products always follow proper cooking instructions.

Another potential problem is cross contamination.  Flour dust spreads easily. Always wash your hands and work surfaces after handling flour.

You can reduce the risk and “pasteurize”  the flour by heat-treating it in an oven or toaster oven before putting it in cookie dough or cake mixes.  Place the flour about ¾” thick on a cookie sheet. Bake for five minutes at 350 degrees F.  This treatment has been proven to kill bacteria found in flour.

Needless to say, this is another reason not to eat raw cake mix or batter and children shouldn’t be allowed to play with or eat raw dough. Remember: seniors, the very young, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

If you STILL want to lick the beaters—you know the risk.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Resources:

  1. For information on food recalls go to www.foodsafety.gov/recalls-and-outbreaks
  2. Heat treatment of flour will be presented at the International Association for Food Protection Conference in July 2019
    https://iafp.confex.com/iafp/2019/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/21486
  3. North Carolina Extension’s Safe Plates Information Center https://www.facebook.com/SafePlatesFSIC/
  4. E. coli in raw flour: the risks are real.  https://news.nutritioneducationstore.com/?s=flour

 

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updated on 11-12-2019