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Ready-to-bake cookie dough not ready-to-eat, study of E. coli outbreak finds
Date:12/8/2011

[EMBARGOED FOR DEC. 9, 2011] The investigation of a 2009 multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), an important cause of bacterial gastrointestinal illness, led to a new culprit: ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough. Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and available online, a new report describing the outbreak offers recommendations for prevention, including a stronger message for consumers: Don't eat prepackaged cookie dough before it's baked.

The report's authors, led by Karen Neil, MD, MSPH, and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at state health departments, reached two key conclusions: 1) manufacturers of cookie dough should consider reformulating their product to make it as safe as a ready-to-eat product and 2) more effective consumer education about the risks of consuming unbaked goods is needed. During the 2009 outbreak, 77 patients with illnesses were identified in 30 states, and 35 people were hospitalized.

Previous E. coli-related food-borne illnesses have been associated with ground beef, leafy green vegetables, sprouts, melons, salami, and unpasteurized apple cider. The 2009 investigation, which involved extensive traceback, laboratory, and environmental analysis, led to a recall of 3.6 million packages of the cookie dough. However, no single source, vehicle, or production process associated with the dough could be identified for certain to have contributed to the contamination.

Dr. Neil and colleagues suspected that one of the ingredients used to produce the dough was contaminated. Their investigation didn't conclusively implicate flour, but it remains the prime suspect. They pointed out that a single purchase of contaminated flour might have been used to manufacture multiple lots and varieties of dough over a period of time as suggested by the use-by
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Contact: John Heys
jheys@idsociety.org
703-299-0412
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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