The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a salmonella outbreak that has been linked to flour, and it’s urging people not to eat or play with uncooked dough or batter.
A dozen illnesses – including three hospitalizations – have been reported in connection with the outbreak, spanning 11 states. However, the CDC says that the scale of the outbreak is probably much larger than the number of reported cases suggests.
The agency has not identified specific brands of flour involved in the outbreak.
Most of the patients whom the CDC has interviewed said they had eaten raw dough or batter in the week before falling ill, the timing of which spanned from December to mid-February. Flour was the only common ingredient in the raw dough or batter that was eaten.
Most flour is raw and hasn’t been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning, according to the CDC. Salmonella bacteria dies when it is cooked or baked, but people can get sick when eating or tasting foods that include raw flour. Raw dough used for crafts and play clay also pose a risk.
To stay safe, the CDC recommends following recipe or package instructions to fully cook cookies, cakes and other foods made with raw flour, and using warm water and soap to wash hands, utensils, countertops and anything else that comes into contact with raw four. People should also use heat-treated flour for homemade playdough.
Symptoms of a salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps that can start within hours or days of consuming the bacteria. Most people will recover with treatment but should seek immediate attention from a health care provider if they have severe symptoms, symptoms that don’t improve after a few days or signs of dehydration.