Many of us enjoy baking during the holiday season. It’s a time to get out our favorite cookie recipes, put on our aprons, break out the measuring cups and spoons, and get started baking those family-treasured delights. But, it’s not a time to relax when it comes to food safety baking basics.
Many people are unaware that mishandling raw batter or dough can bring the risk of a foodborne illness. Raw batter or dough often contains two ingredients that can lead to illness: raw flour and raw eggs. Either can carry Salmonella, Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli), Campylobacter or other harmful bacteria that, if consumed, puts an individual at risk for illness. Young children and older individuals are especially susceptible because of their underdeveloped or weakened immune systems. Children under the age of 4 years are more likely to get sick from contaminated food compared to adults, according to a 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture study.
And, let’s not leave out of the food safety equation the importance of handwashing. That same 2018 USDA study found that 97 percent of consumers fail to wash their hands properly when preparing a meal, greatly increasing the risk of contaminating foods.
Here are some reminders of baking guidelines we should follow:
- Always start by washing your hands. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you start handling or preparing foods. Make sure to (re)wash your hands before and after handling raw ingredients, such as flour and eggs.
- Never eat raw dough or batter. Whether it’s cookie dough, pancake batter, etc. any prebaked item that contains raw eggs and flour is likely to be contaminated.
- Avoid cross-contamination. When baking or cooking in the kitchen, wash utensils, small appliances (like a mixer or food processor), and work surfaces with hot water and soap before and after they come in contact with raw dough that contains flour and/or eggs.
- Don’t touch the tablet. Remember to keep your hands off of any digital devices, such as a tablet or smartphone, while you are baking. These devices can carry loads of bacteria. If you do touch a device, wash your hands using hot water and soap.
And, how should we store and handle the flour and eggs?
FightBac.org, a non-profit partnership of government, industry and consumer representatives, recommends keeping raw eggs refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below until you need to use them. Bake desserts containing eggs to a safe internal temperature of 160 degrees, checked with a food thermometer. And, of course, wash hands with soap and water after handling eggs.
For raw flour, FightBac.org advises following package directions on baking mixes and other four-containing products for correct cooking temperatures and times. And, since flour powder spreads easily, wash your hands and preparation surfaces with soap and hot water.
As you begin baking this holiday season—and all year long, really—remember these simple baking guidelines so that the memories you create this season are all sweet!
For more information on food safety, visit: The Partnership for Food Safety Education | Fight BAC!