Evan finds Nestle refrigerated cookie dough; Doug cooks it (sorta)

During the evening of Thursday, June 18, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urged Coloradans not to eat raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

The next morning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers not to eat any varieties of prepackaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough due to the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. At the same time, Nestlé announced a voluntary recall of all Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products, “out of an abundance of caution.”

About 4:30 p.m. central time on Friday, June 19, 2009 (happy birthday, daughter Jaucelynn, avoid the raw cookie dough) colleague Evan reported that he had successfully obtained a package of Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough (above, right, exactly as shown). I say obtained because he didn’t have to pay for it. Evan went to a local supermarket, and saw, “a young kid, armed with a box cutter, standing beside a cart full of Nestle Toll House products.

“I asked if I could have one of them, to which he replied, ‘you’re not going to get a refund for it are you?’ I told him no, but he said he had to cut open the package so I couldn’t return it. The kid wasn’t wearing any gloves and was sweating, so I’m guessing he was out there for a while handling a potentially contaminated product.”

And he gave Evan the raw cookie dough, which Evan triple-bagged and refrigerated until Saturday.

Amy and Sorenne and I went grocery shopping this morning, and observed that the Nestle refrigerated products had been dutifully cleared out (left, exactly as shown). We did, however, buy a couple of other raw cookie dough products. I never eat the stuff, but understand that many are quite passionate about their raw cookie dough.

There are at least two potential problems with raw cookie dough: eating it, and cross-contamination. Evan and I videotaped a cooking experiment and the cookies get plenty hot to kill off potential pathogens (we’ll post that later).

Bill Marler has written about the uh, inadequacies of the labels on Nestle raw cookie dough. Not that anyone reads labels, or that everyone speaks English, but maybe there shoud be more of a declaration of potential risk.

And bigger type: not to sound like ole-man-grouchy-Powell, but even with my reading glasses I could barely read a damn thing on the label. The Kroger private selection brand says,

Keep refrigerated
Use before date on package
Do not eat unbaked cookie dough.

The Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough says,

Do not microwave unbaked Poppin Fresh dough
Bake before enjoying
Do not use if unsealed.

It would seems with at least 66 people sick with a serious illness – E. coli O157:H7 – of which 25 had to be hospitalized and seven will suffer long-term kidney damage, these labels sorta suck.

Oh, and according to a story carried by Bloomberg,

“The Toll House cookie brand is named for the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, whose owner, Ruth Wakefield, is credited with inventing the chocolate chip cookie in the 1930s."

D-listed and the problem with raw cookie dough

Michael K of celebrity blog D-listed encapsulates the problem with Nestle, raw cookie dough, labels and E. coli O157:H7, which has so far sickened 66 people in 28 states.

If you get the craving to eat cookie dough this weekend, lick this picture and don’t eat the real thing or you may doody until you dieeeeeee. … This weekend the grocery stores are totally going to be full of single depressed ladies trading in their unused cookie dough for SnackWells.

Why do they always recall delicious things? They never recall crap like peas or multi-grain Cheerios. … I always eat raw cookie dough. I tell myself that I’m going to bake it like a normal person, but then suddenly the bowl is empty and I have the guilties.

Cookie dough? Cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157:H7?

In yet another example of different jurisdictions having different opinions about when to go public, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sent out a press release last night urging Coloradans not to eat raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough because of possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7.

If the link is proven, cookie dough would join a long list of foods like produce, pet food, peanut butter and pot pies that consumers really have very little control over; it’s up to the producers and processors. Which makes various consumer education programs like FightBac sorta backwards. Consumers have a role in food safety, but not with this stuff.

Colorado state health officials, the CDC and several other state health departments are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections.

To date, 66 cases from 28 states have been identified. Preliminary evidence from the multi-state investigation suggests that Nestle Toll House cookie dough may be the source of the outbreak, although further investigation is ongoing.

Five cases have been reported in Colorado in the following counties: Denver, Douglas (2), Jefferson and Weld. Two of the people have been hospitalized, and one has developed a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome. Of the four people interviewed so far by the state health department, all had consumed the raw cookie dough during the week before they became ill.

Alicia Cronquist, the foodborne disease epidemiologist at the state health department, said,

“We can’t be certain that raw cookie dough is the source of these infections, but we are concerned enough that it might be and want consumers to be aware.”

Daniel Rifkin, Wholesale Food Program manager for the Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division, said,

“Nestle is currently evaluating what actions they will take regarding their product. In the meantime, it is important that consumers do not eat or use raw Nestle Toll House cookie dough for now. If you decide to use the product, ensure that the cookies are cooked thoroughly and wash your hands well after handling the raw dough. More information will be forthcoming.”