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FDA: Don't ever, ever eat raw cookie dough

Tainted flour causes E. coli woes

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(CNN)

Like to eat cookie dough right out of the bowl? Don’t.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Tuesday against eating raw dough after an E. coli outbreak caused 38 illnesses in 20 states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced at least half of the E. coli instances to General Mills flour produced in Missouri. General Mills issued a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour produced between Nov. 14 and Dec. 4 under the brand names Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and Gold Medal Wondra. Flour that is part of the recall should be thrown away.

Unlike raw food like eggs or meat, “flour is not the type of thing that we commonly associate with pathogens,” Jenny Scott, a senior adviser in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told the New York Times.

The FDA believes the grain became contaminated in the field via exposure to manure, cattle, birds and other bacteria.

The bacteria are killed during cooking or processing through boiling, baking, roasting, microwaving or frying. However, raw dough does not go through any of those "kill steps," according to the FDA.

The FDA released the following tips for handling raw flour:

-- Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter or any other raw dough or batter product that is supposed to be cooked or baked;

-- Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times;

-- Wash your hands, work surfaces and utensils after contact with flour and raw dough products;

-- Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination.