Is it safe to eat raw cookie dough when you’re pregnant?

And why you need to be careful if you're making homemade playdough and slime too....

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In a nutshell

No but it’s not about the eggs…

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So, what’s the problem?

For many years, eating raw (uncooked) cookie dough was a no-go for pregnant women because the raw eggs in it would have presented a risk of salmonella poisoning. But, since October 2017, raw eggs have been considered OK to eat if you’re expecting – as long as they’re Lion-stamped.

However, there’s now a new raw cookie dough danger: uncooked (raw) flour.

The Food And Drug Administration in the US has recently advised anyone (not just pregnant women) against consuming products made with raw flour – and the UK Foods Standards Agency has now followed suit – because it’s now thought that flour could potentially be contaminated with E Coli bacteria.

“E coli can cause gastroenteritis with bloody diarrhoea, and a particular strain can cause kidney problems or failure,” says expert GP Dr Philippa Kaye. E coli infection in pregnancy is not linked to any higher risk of birth defects but infection can cause dehydration and, in some severe cases, bleeding, miscarriage, premature labour or stillbirth. 

What about bought ice cream with cookie dough in it?

“Bought ice creams containing cookie dough tend to be OK,” says Dr Philippa, “as the flour has been pasteurised or treated.” Phew!

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What other raw-flour dangers should I watch out for?

This raw-flour danger is something that could affect you if you:

  • bake using cookie dough
  • eat uncooked cake batter
  • make homemade pizza, pancakes, tortillas, biscuits
  • make homemade playdough
  • make homemade slime containing flour
  • eat bought products with (unpasteurised) raw cookie dough as an ingredient

Wait, playdough isn’t safe?

Only if it’s homemade and your child (or you!) eats chunks of it – or licks their fingers after help to make it.

“If your child’s at nursery,” says Dr Philippa, “do check if they make their own playdough with raw flour, as children do eat/lick playdough.”

You can, apparently, try pasteurising your own flour at home – by heating it quickly (in an oven or microwave) to a high temperature to kill off the bacteria. But we have to say we found very little information on exactly how to do this.

But, for flour crafts such as playdough, slime and salt dough, it should help make it safer for your child to play with – especially if you hover close to make sure they don’t eat any, and always wash their hands well afterwards.

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Dr Philippa Kaye is a London GP who has written several books on pregnancy and childcare including The First Five Years. See www.drphilippakaye.com and follow her on twitter @drphilippakaye

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