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I just bought some Kroger Simple Truth Plant-Based Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

I always prefer to eat raw dough rather than bake the cookies.

But this packaging says:

DO NOT CONSUME RAW DOUGH

Why not?

As a kid, I'd always heard a recommendation not to eat raw cookie dough that had eggs in it (and even then, I'm not sure what the reasoning is or what the risks are, but I suppose probably something related to salmonella).

But when the ingredients are plant-based (no eggs, no dairy, no animal products of any kind), what are the possible unwanted effects from eating raw dough?

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    This is actually one of this signs of food bloggers that know what they're doing, and ones that might get people sick. There are a lot of recipe blogs with 'safe to eat' cookie dough recipes that leave out the egg, but don't bother dealing with the raw flour risk; (see cooking.stackexchange.com/q/71142/67 )
    – Joe
    Sep 3 at 13:48
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    Because eggs aren't really the problem, flour is
    – Kevin
    Sep 3 at 14:06
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    FWIW the other day I bought prepared brownie dough that was labelled as safe to eat raw, due to using heat-treated flour. So it is possible to find pre-mixed dough products that are safe to eat raw.
    – The Photon
    Sep 4 at 2:15
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    For reference, I have some washing detergent that claims to be plant-based, so I wouldn’t take plant-based to mean automatically edible.
    – jl6
    Sep 4 at 19:24
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    @Vaelus Higher? Yes. Significantly? No. If eating raw eggs was that much of a risk, restaurants wouldn't be allowed to serve eggs over easy or sunny side up. Anecdotally, I've been eating raw dough and cake batter for close to five decades and never gotten so much as an upset stomach
    – Kevin
    Sep 4 at 20:47
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I was surprised at how difficult it was to find the answer, but I eventually found articles by the FDA and CDC.

Consumers should be aware that there are additional risks associated with the consumption of raw dough, such as particularly harmful strains of E. coli in a product like flour.

Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria[...] So if an animal heeds the call of nature in the field, bacteria from the animal waste could contaminate the grain, which is then harvested and milled into flour.

Common “kill steps” applied during food preparation and/or processing (so-called because they kill bacteria that cause infections) include boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving, and frying. But with raw dough, no kill step has been used. [...] Common symptoms for Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are diarrhea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps, although most people recover within a week. But some illnesses last longer and can be more severe, resulting in a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

That's pretty gross.

But then this number of people reportedly infected is so small that I'm surprised at the prevalence of the warnings (such as on packaging):

In recent years (2016 and 2019), two outbreaks of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made more than 80 people sick. Flour and baking mixes that contain flour have long shelf lives, so it’s a good idea to check your pantry to see if you have any flour or baking mixes that have been recalled in recent years.

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    Great find @Ryan, keep good answers such as these coming! Risk is often calculated as a factor of probability and impact, in this case the probability is low but the potential impact is high, impact in this case being the costs of a legal case if someone gets sick and sues. Any minuscule risk will be covered by warnings so they can't say you weren't warned.
    – GdD
    Sep 3 at 9:01
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    I think apart from bacteria there is also possibility of parasite (worm) eggs being present in raw dough.
    – RedBaron
    Sep 3 at 9:29
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    "But then this number of people reportedly infected is so small that I'm surprised at the prevalence of the warnings" the prevalence of warnings could be a contributing factor on why the number of cases is small. Sep 3 at 14:39
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    @eps: I doubt that. A lot of people eat raw meat (steak tartare is served in restaurants) but nobody eats raw flour. Wheat is exposed to bird poop and open air for a month, while meat is kept inside a healthy animal or a fridge. (But if you have proof otherwise, I'm happy to learn something.) Sep 3 at 16:42
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    "But then this number of people reportedly infected is so small that I'm surprised at the prevalence of the warnings (such as on packaging):" I often get eggs that have the following warning printed inside the carton: "Allergens: contains eggs".
    – JimmyJames
    Sep 3 at 18:48
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There is no rule that plant based food is safe to be eaten raw. Also, on a side note, the salmonella reasoning was somewhat misguided - not that it isn't a risk, but it isn't the reason why cookie dough is not intended for raw consumption.

When determining food safety, one doesn't ask "where will the bacteria come from", except in some very special cases (eggs are one of them). Bacteria, yeasts and mold spores are always present everywhere, on all surfaces in the kitchen, in the fridge, on our bodies, and in the air. The question is not "will it have bacteria", but "will bacteria grow in it".

And for the "will bacteria grow in it", the answer is by default "yes". For the answer to become "no", there has to be a special reason. For example, raw fruit and vegetables are still alive after picking and can resist bacterial infection (else they would have rotted on the plant). Dry foods such as ripe beans don't contain enough moisture for bacteria to grow. Preserved foods have had some necessary factor taken away. And so on.

Cookie dough doesn't fall under any of these exceptions. For all intents and purposes, it is a raw ingredient, which has to be cooked within 3-5 days of making, and stored under refrigeration in that time.

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    While even raw dough that isn't significantly contaminated will become unsafe to eat within a few hours at room temperature, salmonella contamination from eggs is a big part of the reason you shouldn't eat raw dough containing eggs, even immediately after preparing it.
    – Vaelus
    Sep 4 at 2:41
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    @Vaelus Every bag of flour sold also warns not to eat raw flour - it's grown outdoors and can have E.Coli or Salmonella contamination just like eggs can. You don't need an egg to make raw dough potentially dangerous.
    – J...
    Sep 4 at 11:55
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    @Vaelus Depends where you are. Many countries have sufficiently rigorous controls to make raw eggs completely safe. For instance, the UK has even dropped warning labels on eggs for pregnant women and babies. They're that safe. Sep 5 at 9:18
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Could be lots of things but I have to tell you I once worked temporarily in a warehouse packing food products and the nutrition labels they used were just 'templates' that they reuse on several different products so the first thing that came to mind was that they were reusing the regular cookie dough label on the plant-based cookie dough product.

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  • Thanks for your answer. In this case, the packaging was specific to the plant-based dough, though: kroger.com/p/…
    – Ryan
    Sep 7 at 20:13
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Plant based means what? Could mean anything.

Does it mean there can be no pathogens in there?

It does not mean its perfectly cleansed and ready to pop into one's mouth because it came from a fancy package.

Think in terms of

  • "Prepared & Ready to eat"
    (modern ready to consume packged junk food - cookies, chips, biscuits etc.)

vs

  • "Prepare to eat" (most of human existence)

You have to get to specifics of ingredients and the supply chain of each.

  • Would you eat fruits or vegetables without washing?

  • Would you cook and eat rice without washing?

Probably not, because you've already assumed and are aware that it may have things that you may not wish to consume; be it pests or pesticides/ fertilizers.

The typical rice had in Indian or Asian house holds is washed several times, soaked and then cooked. That's how you its consumed.

Because something is plant-based does not make it ready to consume without a basic "cleanse/ cook" process - which varies for each item.

Whole wheat flour is typically grinded/ milled so you dont wash it, like say whole grain rice. Same with rice flour.

Now, how and why your "previous cookie dough" was okay to eat - you'd have to ask their supply chain & what they do to make it "ready to eat" raw.

Why most other stuff is not "ready to eat" I've outlined above.

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