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Food facts: Are raw cookie dough and eggnog safe to consume?


Always be safe when doing your holiday baking, and never eat raw cookie dough. Both the raw eggs and uncooked flour can make you sick.

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but with holiday baking in full swing, we’re here to say it once more: Don’t eat raw cookie dough.

If you don’t believe us, maybe you’ll believe Lisa Shelley and Ellen Shumaker, food safety experts at NC State.

Here’s why Shelley and Shumaker say we shouldn’t eat raw baking dough — plus, they give us info on how to make eggnog that won’t make us sick and other food safety tips ahead of Christmas.

Can eating raw cookie dough really get me sick?

Unfortunately, yes. There are two potential risks associated with eating raw cookie dough, or dough from any other baking project.

  • Raw egg: Raw eggs can contain salmonella.

  • Raw flour: Raw flour can contain Escherichia coli, also known as E. coli.

“Sugar cookies are a popular baked good this time of year,” Shelley said. “I know it’s tempting, but wait until they’re baked to sample and snack.”

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Always be safe when doing your holiday baking, and never eat raw cookie dough. Both the raw eggs and uncooked flour can make you sick. Courtesy of Confections of a Cookie Addict

How to make eggnog safely

Homemade eggnog is another sugary (and sometimes alcohol-spiked) treat that can potentially make you sick.

This is because eggnog is made with raw eggs — but there is still a safe way to make it.

  • You need pasteurized eggs: Pasteurized eggs have been heat-treated to kill harmful microorganisms like salmonella. The label on the carton will tell you if the eggs are pasteurized. (Or, you can pasteurize eggs at home by slowly heating them in a sauce pan— out of the shell — to 160 degrees and then placing the pan in a bowl of ice water to cool.)

  • Don’t use regular eggs: Using regular eggs, like the ones you’d use in baking cookies or to make morning omelets, is risky.

  • Adding alcohol won’t help: It’s a common belief that you can use whichever eggs you want if you’re spiking your eggnog with rum, bourbon or brandy. But this is false, Shumaker said, as it takes weeks for alcohol to kill off the bacteria. “You’d need a ridiculously high amount, and even that’s not guaranteed,” Shumaker said.

  • Store-bought ‘nog is safe: Store-bought eggnog is made with pasteurized eggs, so you shouldn’t need to worry about getting sick from that.

How can I tell if I’ve developed a foodborne illness?

Symptoms can be mild to severe, Shelley said. And it depends on what you ate — and how much.

  • E. coli: E. coli typically looks like stomach cramps, diarrhea and/or vomiting. This normally comes three to four days after eating the contaminated food.

  • Salmonella: Salmonella typically looks like diarrhea. This can begin around six hours after eating contaminated food, but it can also take three to six days after contamination.

Other safety precautions when prepping food

Shelley and Suhmaker shared key tips for holiday meal prep:

  • Remember 41 and 135: Cold foods need to be kept below 41 degrees F, and hot foods need to be kept above 135 degrees F.

  • Put it in the fridge: Anything with dairy or egg needs to go in the fridge. Keeping these foods at warm temperatures will make them spoil.

  • Break out the crock pot: Making spinach and artichoke dip or some homemade nacho cheese? Dips need to be kept at 135 degrees F. Slow cookers and warming pans do this well.

  • Use separate cutting boards: Use separate cutting boards for raw meat and raw produce. This can head to cross-contamination and spread potentially disease-causing bacteria to your raw foods.

  • Make ahead: When cooking and baking for large gatherings, your food is going to be ready at different times. To avoid keeping food out for too long, think about what you can make and refrigerate — or make and reheat — in advance. Pies and dips can be made in advance and reheated right before your event.

  • Don’t wash the bird: Washing your turkey, chicken and other poultry does not kill disease-causing bacteria. In fact, all this does is splash potentially contaminated particles around your kitchen and possibly onto your other dishes. The only way to kill this bacteria is cooking your poultry to at least 165 degrees F. Read more about the dangers of washing your turkey with this Thanksgiving safety story from November.

  • Use warm soap and water: Wash your hands as frequently as you can. And when you have children helping out in the kitchen, be sure that they’re touching food with sanitized hands.

This story was originally published December 13, 2021 1:08 PM.

Kimberly Cataudella (she/her) is a service journalism reporter for The News & Observer.