Never Eat Cookie Dough Again Unless You Want to Die an Agonizing Death (Says the FDA)

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If you’re wondering why our country seems so bizarrely fearful, here’s the answer: We absolutely cannot understand that risk is inherent in everything, even things that are outrageously safe, like eating cookie dough.

Recently, thanks to an off-batch of General Mills flour that sickened 42 people nationwide (none of whom died), the Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control have warned us, yet again, not to eat raw cookie dough. They did not just say, “Get rid of that General Mills flour.” They said, basically: Don’t eat raw dough, because dough contains raw flour, flour comes from the fields, fields are not antiseptic, and therefore you could end up very sick.

Even though  you, most likely, you can eat all the raw cookie dough you like and be fine —  unless it’s the tainted, one-off General Mills batch, that has been recalled. Here’s a wonderful column about what she calls “Cookie Dough Abstinence” by L.V. Anderson in Slate. She writes:

[A] closer look at the reasons behind the FDA’s recommendations reveals that they might, just maybe, be exaggerating the risks of cookie dough. The FDA issued the warning after investigating an outbreak of a virulent strain of E. coli linked to a batch of flour produced in a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri. (The affected flour, which has since been recalled, is sold under the brand names Gold Medal, Signature Kitchen’s, and Gold Medal Wondra.) Forty-two people in 21 states have contracted the flour-linked E. coli since December. No one has died. And yet the FDA’s response is to tell everyone—all 319 million Americans—not to eat any uncooked flour whatsoever.

Why is the government acting act as if flour, a staple of human life since the dawn of agriculture, is anthrax?

Because it has evidence of a few, extremely rare cases of disease. It cannot keep the idea of “extremely rare” in perspective. It’s is operating on worst-first thinking: Go to the very worst case scenario first, no matter how rare, and proceed as if it’s likely to happen. In fact, proceed as if it’s always happening.

We live this way and it’s making us crazy.

One child dies of “dry drowning” — an extremely rare condition where water in the lungs of a child who went swimming kills them even a day or two later — and suddenly there are stories all over the media about dry drowning “warning signs,” and how to be more vigilant.

One child is accidentally served an alcoholic drink at Applebee’s and suddenly the chain vows never to serve anything other than individual juice packs. As if it had been serving kids Mai Tais on a regular basis.

One zipper-pull falls of a children’s sweatshirt, and suddenly 140,000 of them have to be recalled — because the zipper pull COULD pose a choking hazard. Not that it did. And not that the pulls even fell off the other shirts. But one case is seen as a meteor hurtling toward the earth.

This is not a safe or smart way to live. It throws out products and practices that are perfectly fine. It mandates new products and practices that are unnecessary and often expensive, in terms of time or money. I just got an email from some playground surfacing company begging me to run a piece about the dangers of modern day playgrounds and how they must be made even safer. What will that cost? How many playgrounds will be closed because new standards make the old ones (even those covered in squishy surfacing) legally untenable? Who wins when extremely safe is not safe enough?

These are the questions that drive many an American to one thing only: A heaping spoonful of soul-salving cookie dough. – L. .

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Get thee behind me!

Tempt me not, o sweet spawn of Satan! 

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69 Responses to Never Eat Cookie Dough Again Unless You Want to Die an Agonizing Death (Says the FDA)

  1. lollipoplover July 5, 2016 at 10:59 am #

    They can pry my Salmonella filled fingers off the spoon…I bake cookies all the time and taste test the batter. Long live the fight for who gets to lick the bowl.

    You know what’s dangerous to our (mental) health?
    Reading news story after news story of what around us is dangerous. Inventing new Cookie Monsters to scare us about raw foods…yet runny eggs can be ordered at any diner in town. Huh.

  2. Peter July 5, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    By the way, this same FDA makes the hurdles so high on getting a new, life-saving product to market that many medical device companies fail before they can make their first sale. If held to their own standards, the FDA would not be able to make a public comment on the safety of flour until they spent at least 3 years in double blind clinical trials with 21 to 500 patients, comparing the results between patients who ate regular flour vs tainted flour. Furthermore, they couldn’t extend the warning to cookie dough until they re-ran the entire clinical trial using cookie dough rather than just flour, because those are two different products and results cannot be simply extrapolated.
    So there are actually 2 problems here. 1) Worst first thinking, and 2) the FDA is broken and has been for some time.

  3. Workshop July 5, 2016 at 11:31 am #

    A friend (a dentist) was eating raw cookie dough on Sunday. Granted, it was organic flour, organic chocolate, organic sugar, and organic eggs.

    If middle age hadn’t caught up with me, I would have partaken in the forbidden act too.

  4. lollipoplover July 5, 2016 at 11:55 am #

    And don’t forget the deadly dangers of letting our children leave the nest…studying abroad.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/beau-solomon-death-studying-abroad-can-be-deadly-grieving-moms-n603806

  5. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    ANY foodstuff that is not totally inert (e.g. cooking oil) can be contaminated by live E. coli. No, FDA, it is not taking your life in your hands to eat all uncooked ingredients. I will continue to eat my salad, stir sugar into my coffee, and consume fruit in its natural form, thank you very much.

  6. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 11:59 am #

    Workshop, you may know this, but being organic doesn’t do much for guaranteeing freedom from E. coli contamination. It might reduce the likelihood somewhat because it’s more likely to be raised in an environment where the growers are paying attention sanitation, but there’s nothing inherent to “organic” that keeps the cow poop out of the fields.

  7. elizabeth July 5, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    Yesterday i snacked on cookie dough as i baked cookies, and two of my brothers ate heaping spoonfuls of it. By FDA standards, the fact that i love to eat raw cookie dough should have killed me by now. (I also love to lick the spoon after making brownies.)

  8. elizabeth July 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Lollipoplover: I saw that on the news, the story about the college kid. Poor guy beats cancer only to be killed in italy. Why would people think that one death makes it dangerous though? If my parents had been able to get the money, i would have done the student ambassador program and gone to london and austrailia. I love the different cultures and would travel all the time if i could. Jeez, people can be so paranoid, am i right?

  9. Jess July 5, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Several years ago we had a massive power outage in San Diego. Our house was out for ten hours, other places longer (original estimates were for three to four days). An announcement on the radio said if your power was out for more than four hours you should chuck everything in your fridge and freezer. We didn’t pay it any mind, since our fridge was still cold and our ice unmelted. Maybe common sense advice would be better welcomed than all of this doom and gloom, plus, what happens when a truly important message gets lost in the noise?

  10. elizabeth July 5, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    The student ambassador program is for high achieving high schoolers, btw.

  11. Julie July 5, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    I watch the 4:25 am news every morning because the cats wake and want to be fed and the dog wants to be let outside. Perhaps twice a week the news personalities mention that viewers can learn about the newest danger to babies, toddlers, children, teens, elders or family pets this evening on the 6 pm news. Then for the next 13 hours or so the station hypes the “report” during station breaks, the Noon News, on Twitter, Facebook and at their website. Oh the hysteria!

    The actual report is broadcast then made available for rebroadcast on the previously mentioned platforms until viewers react with a solid meh because it’s generally both a tempest in a teapot and a crappy way to promote a newscast.

  12. Jess July 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    @Julie, I’ve always hated that gimmick, because really, if my kids are in that much danger from anything you better tell me right now.

  13. lollipoplover July 5, 2016 at 12:33 pm #

    @elizabeth-

    In the comments on that article was this observation:

    “And another thing: Seeing these mothers repeatedly refer to their college-age ADULTS as “children” is like fingernails on a chalkboard, and quite possibly part of the problem. If your CHILD is so “new to travel” and doesn’t even know that “it’s a different world out there,” perhaps getting on a plane and living in another country is a bad idea.”

    Parenting is a transfer of knowledge and experience. Teach your children about the differences in the world and arm them with life skills. That’s the best we can do. You can prepare your child for the road, not the road for your child. It’s 25% skill, 75% luck.

  14. Muriel Strand, P.E. July 5, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    when i saw the news report, i figured it was salmonella i was supposed to be afraid of.

  15. Chantelle July 5, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

    Gah. I’m to lazy to helicopter parent. I tell myself I’m teaching him to be independent, but really I don’t have the energy to do everything for him. What are kids for if not for summoning them from three rooms away to pass you the remote?

  16. m July 5, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    @ lollipoplover

    *headdesk*

    A freshman was shot at a nearby college the other day. Maybe studying IN the US can be dangerous too?

    Apparently we should never let our “children” (even adult children) ever leave home.

    *sarcasm*

  17. Laura sauter July 5, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    We can’t pass common-sense gun control but we are scared of raw cookie dough. In what Bizzaro world does this make any kind of sense?

  18. Filioque July 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    I saw the same article about study abroad, but I was gratified to see that the vast majority of commenters had the common sense to point out that a) a few tragic incidents doesn’t make study abroad dangerous, and b) these same tragedies could have befallen these same students here in the U.S.

  19. Reziac July 5, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    Cooking oil isn’t inert either. Rancid cooking oil can cause blindness… if it’s a primary part of your diet. (It binds vitamin E, and the resulting catastrophic deficiency can cause retinal degeneration.) However, it’s true that bacteria still generally won’t grow in it. (I have a curiosity here, a cod liver oil bottle in the shape of a fish — it still has some of its original contents, now somewhere over 50 years old. Nothing visible growing in it, but rancid as all get out.)

    E.coli is a shotgun term; your gut is full of E.coli, just a subspecies that’s adapted to humans. And as a food pathogen it’s small potatoes. For that you really want to get into clostridium. Ropey milk, mmmm.

    Modern egg production uses laying hens that were fed tetracycline (antibiotic) when they were chicks. Why? Because salmonella is a natural inhabitant of chicken ovaries, but early treatment with tetracycline kills it off, rendering future eggs free of salmonella. Modern egg production also takes considerable care to avoid fecal contamination, the other historical source of egg-borne illness. Take note that animal rights groups want to get rid of modern egg production methods… consider whether is this for the benefit of chickens, or for their other goal — getting rid of humans…

  20. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    Thanks Reziac. I didn’t know if that was the precise term. Is there a word for “bacteria won’t grow in it?”

  21. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    The lesson that should be taken from those study abroad deaths (if anything other than, bad, terrible stuff happens anywhere) is, be responsible for yourself and don’t assume your “program” is going to ensure your safety in every possible way.

    And who knows, maybe the kids in question did have that attitude, but grieving moms have to find an “answer” and someone to blame. Or maybe their response is just a product of their helicoptering attitude that contributed to their kids being more vulnerable than they should have been.

  22. Vaughan Evans July 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm #

    Perhaps the biggest faults-of both the women who raised the hippie generation9and the feminist women) is that they exhibit EXTREME behavior.
    They are obsessed with people’s happiness.
    Men, on the other hand, because they(as boys)were taught to be prospective “protectors” are often very mild-mannered.
    This is why they make good moderators-at public meetings-and at groups.
    HOW TO AVOID EXTREME BEHAVIOR
    -How to display EMPATHY
    Empathy means to be considerate, but non-condescending
    EXAMPLE:
    In 1991, I taught the game “Run, Sheep, Run!-to a family of 5. Books on games recommend the game for the 9-12 age group.
    But younger children can learn to play it-by imitation.
    We played four FROUNDS of the game,.
    In the first round, I was the hiders’ captain. I hid the father and two of the girls(The mother and the third girl was on the SEEKING team.
    In the second round, I hid the mother and the third girl(The father and the two other girls were on the seeking team,.
    In the third roun,,the EIGHT Year old girl was the hiders’ captain, She hid me, the Mother, and the 3 year old. She improvised the codes, imparted them;, then dashed to where the SEEKERS(The father, and the middle girl)were hiding their eyes. Meanwhile, we THREE kept the codes in mind. Soon, the EIGHT year old exclaimed “BLUE” and the three of us dashed to the spot-designated by that CODE.
    In the fourth round the SIX year old was the Hiders captain and the EIGHT year old was the SEEKERS captain(
    She led ME in the search. But in her enthusiasm, she wandered too far from the goal. The SIX year old(who was as bright as a cricket-took advantage of this. She exclaimed’ Run, Sheep, Run! and her team beat us to the goal by a very wide margin.

    Then we had to stop; it was getting late. The father promised these joyful girls that they would play it again.
    And they DID play this game again.
    We played that game in Queens Park-in 1994. Some children dashed up to us-asking,’What game are you playing?’

    (Most people today-even Seniors have NEVER heard of the game let alone having played it,.

    Television(and more recently computers, video games, and Electronic gadgets-have made MANY informal games-and past-times go the way of the dodo.
    -They are kept alive only through the work of folklorists.

  23. Workshop July 5, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    Pentamom, I wrote my reply poorly.

    I meant “organic” as “hippie food doesn’t taste good” as opposed to how it actually reads. As her son mentioned, “some people don’t consider that a selling point.”

    I’m a chemist. “Organic” covers pretty much everything we eat.
    But beware, because cyanide and jet fuel are also “organic.”

    (Note, this joke drives people who don’t have scientific knowledge absolutely bat-fecal-matter crazy.)

  24. John B. July 5, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    I LOVE my burgers RARE! In fact to me, cooking a burger well-done drains the juices and ruins the taste. For the life of me, I cannot understand how anyone can eat a dry, well-done hamburger and enjoy it, BUT to each his own. Fortunately, for years I could go into a restaurant and order a Pittsburgh rare burger. Then I think it was the early 90s when 140 some people got sick and 2 or 3 even died and they traced it back to e. coli in undercooked ground beef. In typical American fashion, over reaction kicked in. So from then on, you could not find a restaurant that would cook a burger anything less than medium well.

    Now 3 people dying is tragic; however, considering millions and millions of rare burgers have been eaten during the past 100 years without a sickness, 3 people is an incredibly low number, and most likely these people had health issues besides the consumption of the undercooked ground beef that hastened their death. But regardless, I could not eat a burger at a restaurant without the Chef first ruining the taste of it by cooking the daylights out of it! Heck when I was in HS back in the early 70s, we’d eat what we’d call tiger meat. This was completely raw ground beef served on a piece of bread and butter with maybe an onion on it. NOBODY got sick and NOBODY died! But if we did that today, people would think we’re trying to commit suicide!

    Fortunately, many restaurants are finally coming around and many of them will now cook a rare burger! But many of the franchise type restaurants still will not. All because less than a handful out of hundreds of millions of people died from eating rare ground beef that could have been prevented via better handling.

    This raw cookie-dough warning is following the same pattern and is all based on typical American OVER reaction.

  25. BL July 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    “If you’re wondering why our country seems so bizarrely fearful …”

    Remember when “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

    Me neither.

    Sigh.

  26. Dee July 5, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    People really cannot handle the fact that life is risk-free. I think we’ve become so comfortable that we assume that life ought to be free of risk. It’s the same reason, while our neighborhood is experiencing a rash of car burglaries, that neighbors are freaking out. You’d think we were in Syria the way people are saying “it’s horrible to live this way” as in afraid to leave your house. Sigh…

  27. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Workshop, I am right there with you on the organic thing. When people say, “I only buy organic food,” I think, “Me, too, except for baking soda and salt.” 🙂

    I do like some “organic” versions of some things, because they have more complex carbs, or don’t have as much added sugar, or use cane sugar instead of HFCS, or what have you. But I don’t buy them because they’re “organic” but for other attributes that sometimes go with the label.

  28. Kevin T July 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    Don’t forget about the dangerous thing we’ve all been doing for years!! Going to get our hair cut and having it washed in the little sink behind the chair. One woman had a stroke several hours (or a day? I don’t remember exactly) after leaving the salon. Some doctor then said the pressure from laying her neck on the sink *might* have been the cause! Never mind that he was just guessing. Never mind that millions of us do this every year … more than once even … and this is the first time I can recall ever hearing something like this. The news in San Diego tried to make it sound like doing so was perhaps the most dangerous thing ever. I wanted to drive to the station and scream at some people.

  29. Renee Anne July 5, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    I’ve had Salmonella. It was a miserable 10 days when I was a kid. I didn’t get it from raw cookie dough. I most likely got it from counter-thawed chicken that I, unknowingly, swiped my fingers through at some point and the counter hadn’t been cleaned properly (thanks, mom). With that said, I lived through it once and I can do it again: I’M EATING THE RAW COOKIE DOUGH MADE WITH RAW EGGS AND TAINTED FLOUR! EAT ALL THE COOKIE DOUGH (unless I’m pregnant…then it’s the eggless raw cookie dough!).

  30. Emily July 5, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    Yeah, I knew about the salmonella/E. coli in eggs thing. I’m vegan now, but before I went vegan, I ate raw cookie dough with raw eggs in it, and never got sick from that. However, the “raw flour is potentially toxic” thing is a new one on me–I guess even vegan cookie dough isn’t safe to eat, then…….except, I’ve been eating it ever since I began learning vegan baking (so, a few years ago), and again, it never made me sick. But, if we all decided that life was safe enough, then the safety industry wouldn’t be able to earn a living–they’d keep making 2016-standard bike helmets, seat belts, air bags, car seats, playground equipment, et cetera, and keep rolling out the “wear sunscreen in the summer, and drink lots of water when you exercise,” and other common-sense safety articles, and people would stop reading them, because that’s boring. People would continue to buy safety products, sure, but they wouldn’t rush out and buy the very best, newest one (that’s also more expensive) every time it’s released. In fact, they might even resort to *gasp!* hand-me-downs!!! Now, I know that the “don’t eat cookie dough” scare isn’t directly about money, but if EVERY “safety” article was based around a consumer product, people would wise up to that, and stop paying attention. This is just part of the landscape of paranoia–I think you could call it intermittent reinforcement, but that might be wrong. If there are some safety articles about buying things, and some that are just about being (excessively) cautious in general, people will figure that the safety advice is coming from an authentic place, and they’ll keep paying attention to the advice, and keep paying money to the product manufacturers.

  31. Dave July 5, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    A greater danger with raw cookie dough is the uncooked eggs we add to the dry batter or flour. Salmonella from raw eggs is pretty common, as I recall.

  32. EricS July 5, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    Yet the FDA approves all things GMO. Hmmmm. Sounds like “cashing in chimes” to me. The way I see it, if it hasn’t killed me or my own yet. I doubt it will. Everything in moderation. Unless it’s filled with GMO crap. Just stay away from all that processed stuff.

  33. elizabeth July 5, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    I accidentally ate undercooked chicken once. Didnt get sick. I have to eat my steak rare to medium rare. I hate well done, or even medium. It has to bleed muahahaha. (i really enjoy it bloody tho, the laugh is to be funny). I have a high tolerance for OTC pain meds, so i take more than the recommended dose when im in severe pain, usually. (“Oh nos! She takes too much!”) Give me a break. We overreact way too much.

  34. lollipoplover July 5, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    Your flour may be anthrax, but your kitchen is truly a war zone:

    http://www.foodbeast.com/news/your-kitchen-is-trying-to-kill-you-injury-statistics-infographic/

    So the average cutting board has 200% more fecal bacteria than your toilet seat? Saute Dooday.
    And dull knives…who knew? Hand that kid the Ginsu set.
    But burns and fires and ER visits from cutting accidents and fecal infested cutting boards…sounds like we need to eat out tonight or just drink water (that’s probably tainted). Sigh.
    ((pours a margarita))

  35. MichelleB July 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    @Renee Anne — Thank you for that comment! I keep seeing over and over “if you’d ever had food poisoning you’d never risk it again.”

    I had food poisoning when I was six months pregnant and wound up spending Thanksgiving in the hospital with an IV drip and lots of anti-nausea meds that didn’t work well enough. It was miserable, but I don’t live in constant fear of it happening again (We don’t know what caused it, but since I was pregnant at the time and not eating runny eggs or raw cookie dough, that wasn’t the culprit.)

    I still eat raw cookie dough, because that’s the whole point of making cookies at home, and eggs with runny yolks. And don’t throw away the entire contents of my fridge because the power was out for more than two hours.

  36. NY Mom July 5, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    And all this time I thought it was the wicked raw egg in raw cookie dough that was killing all those unnamed victims. No one ever knew one person who died. We still don’t.
    Amazing. Fear is how some people keep there jobs, I guess. There must be a better way.

  37. Xena July 5, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

    Workshop – I am also a chemist! I like to tell people that digitalis and hemlock are natural. Great minds think alike!

  38. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 5:59 pm #

    It’s entirely possible that woman had a stroke as a result of leaning her head back against the sink.

    Because she was susceptible to having a stroke. You aren’t going to get a stroke JUST from leaning your head back against something.

    So the conclusion is, people who are susceptible to strokes can actually have one as a result of something that triggers it.

    I mean, really, who knew?

  39. pentamom July 5, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

    Right on MichelleB.

    On of our early Thanksgivings together, my husband and I both got really sick (not sick enough for the hospital, but quite bad enough thank you) a couple of days later and we’ve always attributed it to dumb youth not handling the leftovers and the carcass safely enough. The fact that the baby didn’t get it was another indication.

    We learned the lesson to be more careful. But to this day, while we don’t let stuff sit out for hours, we don’t rush stuff into the fridge the moment we’re done cutting it up, bleach the counters afterward, etc. We just decided to be careful, wash up well, and be sensible.

  40. Joanna July 5, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    I now happen to live in a town that has its own flour mill, so I only buy its flour now. (“Buy Local”) But I stopped eating raw cookie dough (and drinking homemade egg nog!) years ago when salmonella in eggs came to light. But that may change since I’ve begun shopping at a market that sells no-additive or antibiotic eggs and dairy products from its own farm a few miles away. (And not a plastic bag in the store. Yay!) The takeaway for me is that any time a national or multinational chain is involved, be very, very afraid. Buying local is better, and in the case of the market where I shop now, cheaper too.

  41. Donald July 5, 2016 at 6:32 pm #

    Cookie Dough isn’t the only hazard. Car exhaust is everywhere. I have my house sealed off. The only air that can get inside comes through the sanitizers that clean the air and kill the dust mites. Germs are everywhere as well. I go through 100 pairs of disposable medical gloves each week. (you can’t be too careful)

    How dar you criticize the FDA? If I got any illness at all (even so much as a sneeze) after eating cookie dough, I would sue them if they didn’t warn me about all the hazards.

    All snark aside, there are more things that are harmful. I couldn’t agree more with lollipoplover

    “You know what’s dangerous to our (mental) health? Reading news story after news story of what around us is dangerous.”

    Unfortunately the hygiene for mental health is completely disregarded. (and then we wonder why mental illness is on the rise) There is absolutely no limit of the amount of terror that you can bombard people with. Once more, people like the FDA can pat themselves on the back for this.

  42. Jessica July 5, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    Xena and Workshop:

    okay, yes, in chemistry, “organic” means “contains carbon.” But… Surely you know that some words have more than one meaning?

    Just like “shock” can mean “to amaze,” but it can also mean “to experience life-threatening symptoms as a result of blood loss, massive burns, etc.”. If a person says he was shocked because Trump became the nominee, surely you don’t tell him that’s impossible unless he suffered major blood loss?

    Same thing here. Our USDA has a definition for “organic.” You may not like to spend your money on USDA-organic food, but to tell people “Everything is organic! It all contains carbon!” makes you someone I wouldn’t invite to a cocktail party.

  43. Jessica July 5, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    Joanna–
    The local, organic, Amish-owned farm near my area has consistently had produce test positive for Listeria, and people have been sickened. Unfortunately, poor production standards and poor hygiene can be a problem anywhere that people aren’t doing their jobs correctly.

  44. Mark July 5, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

    Xena, I favor nightshade and deathcap mushrooms as organic substances. Arsenic is also nice as an example of a natural substance, but it’s decidedly inorganic.

  45. K2 July 6, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    I think it is good to have an awareness of these rare occurrences. I don’t mind reading a few articles. Cookie dough could also have several raw eggs in it. I had never heard of dry drowning until recently. I don’t mind the awareness. What I don’t like is what goes with it. If my kid goes swimming and swallows too much water my guess is that any and all negative results will be directly my fault and likely charges will be pressed. With awareness comes this accountability with a very punitive system. I don’t always know how much water my kid swallows. I know it’s some, but we don’t actually measure it and now it has been a while since I read the article and I’m not even sure I would come up with dry drowning as a possibility. I’m not a doctor or nurse. I think our society has set expectations that are in many cases unreasonably high and the average journalist, teacher, cleaning lady, etc. is right there to make standards even higher/give you more to think about and/or physically do and turn you in if you don’t meet them all the time day in and day out.

  46. Julie Biddle July 6, 2016 at 1:44 am #

    Yet children are killed by guns every day, usually accidentally, and they are never recalled.

  47. Donald July 6, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    “I think it is good to have an awareness of these rare occurrences.”

    I don’t mind either. However there is a not so rare occurrence that comes with hysteria. (actually it’s extremely common) Anxiety and depression are a huge problem. We can count how many suicides occur. However we can’t count how many times anxiety and depression are directly responsible for:
    family breakups
    domestic violence
    violent crimes
    child abandonment.

    If it bleeds it leads has been the media slogan for years. However I don’t pin all of the blame on the media. They are only the supplier. The drama junkies have to own up to some responsibility as well.

  48. hineata July 6, 2016 at 2:40 am #

    I’d think about a decent reply to this, but I I’m too busy licking dough off the wooden spoon ☺.

    And as to the deaths of the exchange students. ..it would floor me if something awful happened to my progeny, and I DO have a bit of an irrational fear of being found with drugs in my luggage in Malaysia /Singapore, BUT – all you can do is suggest that ‘kids’ check out the situations they’re heading into before they arrive, and then just hope for the best. Also, listen to the locals….here, for example, it can be difficult convincing tourists/young foreign folk that because we don’t have wild animals running around in the bush ready to eat you, that doesn’t mean that the bush is safe. And you can die in it pretty quickly if you don’t follow the posted warnings about warm clothing, sticking to the track, telling people where you’re going, yada, yada. Yet we still have some doing the Tongariro (a hard yakka mountain day trip) in jandals and t-shirts.

    Moral – don’t assume the world is the same as at home. And if you’re in the US, stay there. Heck, you people have Jimmy Johns and fancy taco joints. Why would you want to travel? ☺

  49. BL July 6, 2016 at 4:39 am #

    @Jessica
    ‘Our USDA has a definition for “organic.”’

    An ever-shifting list of arbitrary regulations, mostly determined by which bureaucrat got paid off by which lobbyists, hardly constitutes a “definition”.

    It’s no guide to safety or healthfulness, as it purports to be.

  50. Cerellia July 6, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    [quote]It’s no guide to safety or healthfulness[/quote]

    I don’t think that this is what the organic farmic methods are about. They are about a more sustainable and more animal friendly way to feed the world. Something that I think is worth supporting.
    And maybe avoiding the exposure to traces of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics makes a small health difference.

  51. pentamom July 6, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    Jessica, I can’t speak for Workshop, but I don’t go around telling people that. I just think it.

    And as others have pointed out, the made-up definition for organic does exist, but it’s not all that useful for practical purposes.

    As for the college age exchange student thing, my feeling is that programs that sponsor this, since they are taking some level of responsibility, do have a duty to provide extensive information that the average American kid traveling abroad would probably be unaware of. Once that information is provided, though, they don’t have the duty to babysit young adults.

  52. pentamom July 6, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    “I don’t think that this is what the organic farmic methods are about.”

    It’s not. But a lot of people seem to think it is.

  53. Dismayed and disgruntled July 6, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    Thank you for writing this… And everything you write. I read the cookie dough article and being not my glass-is-half-full self, I came away from it thinking, I have never thought about flour being contanminated, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t bake that much. I usually am very cynical about anything I read nowadays, but we are only people and can’t be thinking everyone always has an agenda of fear mongering in every single article, otherwise we’ll go crazy. I so miss the days of media having to provide facts and figures to back up their stories or having real live scientists to interview to ensure whatever they were stating was,at least, according to latest research. It’s hard to stay sane in this new world. I just hope I can teach my kids enough so they don’t get swept up by every little thing they read too.

  54. SteveS July 6, 2016 at 9:01 am #

    Yet children are killed by guns every day, usually accidentally, and they are never recalled.

    They aren’t recalled because typically we only recall products that are defective. Why should we recall a product that is intentionally misused? As for gun accidents, how about some facts:

    Fact: In 2007, there were only 54 accidental gun deaths for children under age 13. About 12 times as many children died from drowning during the same period.

    Fact: In 2007, there were 999 drowning victims and 137 firearm- related accidental deaths in age groups 1 through 19. This despite the fact that firearms outnumber pools by a factor of more than 30:1. Thus, the risk of drowning in a pool is nearly 100 times higher than dying from a firearm-related accident for everyone, and nearly 500 times for children ages 0-5.

    As for cookie dough, I would imagine the risk of food poisoning is very low, considering how much is consumed every year.

  55. Workshop July 6, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Jessica, given your lack of appreciation of humor, I think I probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyways.

  56. MichaelF July 6, 2016 at 12:02 pm #

    This is why I use King Arthur Flour!

  57. Donna July 6, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    “And another thing: Seeing these mothers repeatedly refer to their college-age ADULTS as “children” is like fingernails on a chalkboard, and quite possibly part of the problem.”

    Huh? Do some really not realize that there are two definitions of the word “child?” I could see a complaint if the mothers were referring to ALL college students as “children,” but they all seem to be using the term “children” or “child” to refer specifically to their own offspring, which are by definition their children regardless of age. I am not a child, but I am still my mother’s child, and my mother is still her mother’s child even though they both collect social security.

  58. Donna July 6, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

    I love cookie dough. Cake batter too. In our house, we bake things ourselves so that we can eat dough and batter. Otherwise, we’d just go to the bakery. We have no intention of stopping this any time soon.

    As for the exchange student thing, I could certainly see complaining about exchange programs that put students at risk by placing them in danger. If my kid went on an exchange program and got murdered by the host family in housing arranged by the program, I’d have a bone to pick with the exchange program. But these mothers also seem to be complaining about risks inherent in living which is ridiculous. Someone being killed by a homeless person while walking home from the pub is the fault of the exchange program? How is the exchange program supposed to stop this from happening? Hire babysitters for everyone? What if a particularly aggressive homeless person kills the student AND the babysitter?

  59. andy July 6, 2016 at 5:17 pm #

    @Peter Double blind clinical trials with 21 to 500 patients, comparing the results between patients who ate regular thing vs new drug does not sound overly demanding to me at all. Especially since reproductibility rates of most studies coming from drug companies are ridiculously low (like, only 40% of studies were estimated to be reproductible), external standards are a good idea.

    Maybe not all the FDA standards are good and maybe many are over the top, but double blind clinical trial with 21 to 500 patients is not overly demanding at all.

  60. The Other Mandy July 6, 2016 at 10:57 pm #

    This weekend we kept offering one another bird poop aka cookie dough. I let my kids eat it. We figure, what’s the chance that particular bit of wheat in my cookie dough was pooped on by that particular e.coli tainted bird? When I was pregnant with my first I was very careful about not eating sushi, cold cuts etc. but got sick from a spinach salad. Healthy, right?

  61. Chris Mallory July 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    “organic” means grown in sxxx. So, if anything organic is more likely to have E coli.

  62. Merriweather July 12, 2016 at 11:01 am #

    Wait — and we cannot get reasonable gun control laws passed? The mind reels.

  63. bw1 July 12, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    The real problem is a a mathematically illiterate conception of risk by a society where most people go catatonic at the prospect of doing simple long division. Risk is a continuum, but too many people (including highly placed policy makers like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood) view it as a digital, all or nothing, one or zero, phenomenon, i.e. if a bad outcome CAN happen, that is the equivalent of saying it WILL happen.

    Another manifestation can be found in all the claims that various hazardous or toxic substances have no safe exposure level, which, to a scientifically literate person, is ridiculous.

    But you know, science and math are hard, and a large part of the unemployment problem for college raduates is the high percentage of them who chose their major particularly to avoid having to study math or hard science. Whenever someone makes a ridiculous assertion about risk, I ask them to explain the difference between correlation and causation, and whenever they do so about science, I ask them to explain the difference between an isotope and an ion. The failure rate is 100%

  64. bw1 July 12, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    John B.: I also love a Pittsburgh rare burger. The reason so few places will serve them anymore is that they simply can’t, for what they’re able to pay, hire people they can trust to handle raw food properly. I cook my own burgers raw on the inside, and order them that way in better establishments, but a rare burger from a place whose hiring requirements are a pulse and one reactive pupil makes about as much sense as sushi from a gas station.

    It’s more a problem of the general state of the American workforce.

  65. bw1 July 12, 2016 at 11:33 pm #

    “I’ve had Salmonella. ”

    So has my brother – 4 times. Each round was milder than the one before. After the fourth round, the doctor told him he’d reached symbiosis and would not experience symptoms again. Yay! Of course, now it’s critical he wash his hands after using the bathroom lest he give someone else their first round.

  66. James Pollock July 13, 2016 at 12:47 am #

    ” I ask them to explain the difference between an isotope and an ion. The failure rate is 100%”

    The number of protons present in the atomic nucleus determine which element you have. Isotopes are the same element, with different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus. Ions are the same element, with different numbers of electrons in orbit around it.

  67. bw1 July 13, 2016 at 11:30 pm #

    Yes, James, I know there are people who can answer that. They aren’t the ones making the ridiculous statements.

  68. Don Miller July 17, 2016 at 11:20 pm #

    Part of it is the nature of bureaucracy

    All people want to feel their job is important and necessary. Even bureaucrats.

    If your job is to issue food safety warnings, you are going to issue food safety warnings because that is what you do and you might be saving someones life.

    If there isn’t anyone with the job of issuing food warnings, and you are a bureaucrat who wants a promotion, you design a food safety bureau. You sell the idea to your superiors, get funding, and boom, you are now the boss of food safety, and have a bunch of minions who think they are saving lives by issuing food safety warnings about the most minuscule of risks.

    When people start to wonder if your job is important, you have to make the risk seem even more perilous because, to you, because you focus on it every day, every bite of food could be your last. You know that peoples live depend on your warnings. It helps you sleep better at night knowing you are doing something important.

    Problem isn’t just with food safety, it is with every regulatory agency in ever government in the world. A bunch of well meaning people who are trying to make the whole world a safer/better place to live, one well meaning regulation at a time

    Politicians can’t really do anything about it. Even the most long lived of them don’t stay in power long enough to match the endurance the entrenched bureaucracies of the world.