In the midst of the Christmas cookie season, it's important to remember one thing: Don't eat unbaked cookie dough. That's the upshot of a recent report published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

After a 2009 multistate outbreak of E. coli was traced to ready-to-bake commercial prepackaged cookie dough, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a closer look at the stuff. They reached two key conclusions: 1) manufacturers should consider reformulating their cookie doughs to make them safe as ready-to-eat products and 2) consumers need to know about the risks of consuming unbaked goods.

During the 2009 outbreak, 77 patients with illnesses were identified in 30 states, and 35 people were hospitalized. Although it led to a recall of 3.6 million packages of cookie dough, no single source, vehicle or production process could be identified as the culprit. Scientists suspect contaminated flour. Another E. coli outbreak in January of 2010 was linked to Toll House cookie dough.

Interestingly, chocolate chip cookie dough was less strongly associated with E. coli illnesses when compared with other flavors of cookie dough. So if you're a 13-year-old-girl at a slumber party and you have an insatiable need for unbaked cookie dough, make it chocolate chip.

Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at

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