Saturday, June 30, 2012

Is Raw Cookie Dough a Killer?

For many, baking cookies is a labor of love that’s sweetened by the occasional stealthy scoop of raw cookie dough. But there’s a sinister side to this guilty pleasure: Public health officials warn that raw eggs can contain stomach-churning salmonella bacteria, which can cause fever, diarrhea, and even death. So should cookie bakers keep their fingers to themselves?

First, it’s important to realize that no one really knows how many eggs are contaminated with salmonella. In the past, experts thought that salmonella lived on eggshells, but couldn’t make its way into an egg without traveling through a hairline crack. Today we know that salmonella can pass from the ovaries of infected hens straight into their developing eggs.

In the Northeastern states of the U.S., solid estimates suggest that 1 in 10,000 eggs are contaminated with salmonella. That means you could eat an entire batch of two-egg cookie dough and face only a 0.02 percent chance of a night on the toilet. Of course, these figures are only estimates—some studies put the number of infected eggs at 1 in 20,000, while at least one ratchets it up to 1 in 700.

Even then, tainted dough may not be as dangerous as it seems. Studies show that salmonella needs the power of numbers to wreak its damage, and healthy volunteers don’t get a serious infection unless they ingest about 1 million salmonella organisms. (This is notably different from dangerous strains of E. coli, which can breach your body’s defenses in very small numbers—as few as 200 bacteria.) And if you do get infected with salmonella, the odds are overwhelming that you’ll be back on your feet in a week with nothing worse than some painful memories.

The bottom line? Eating raw cookie dough is particularly risky for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems—all of whom are more likely to suffer dangerous complications. (And to be consistently paranoid about egg safety, none of these individuals should eat a runny-yoked egg, which may still harbor bacteria.) But an average, healthy adult with a normally functioning immune system has a relatively small risk of serious health trouble. On the other hand, exercise caution when dealing with foods that traditionally use raw eggs—such as Caesar salad dressing, eggnog, and homemade ice cream. These foods aren’t eaten immediately, which gives bacteria time to multiply and reach more dangerous levels. To keep these foods safe, make them with pasteurized egg products.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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