by Marion Nestle
Jun 19 2009

Cookie dough alert: E. coli O157:H7

As a result of investigations in Colorado, the FDA has just issued one of it’s lovely warnings of “voluntary” recalls, this time of Nestlé ‘s raw Toll House cookie dough (see product list).

I’d like to know if cookie dough is really the problem.  If there is a problem with cookie dough, it’s usually Salmonella. If cookie dough is the culprit, how on earth did this nasty form of E. coli, usually excreted by farm animals, get into it?  Eggs?  Butter?  Chocolate?  Flour?   In the meantime, the tally has reached 65 victims in 29 states: 25 hospitalizations, 7 with severe complications, no deaths.  Here’s the brand new CDC Nestlé Toll House Cookie Dough outbreak page with the statistics.

The roster: spinach 2006, pet food 2007, tomatoes (or was it jalapeno peppers or cilantro) 2008, peanut butter 2009, pistachios 2009. And now cookie dough.

The endless mantra is that we need prevention: HACCP, pathogen testing, and independent third-party verification.


  • After reading the New York Times blurb about the outbreak, I was just wondering the same. Ms. Nestle, is there a country that has better regulation/food policy than the US? Maybe if we had someone/something to aspire to we’d reach a higher standard quicker.

  • Thanks! Michael Pollan was correct. Don’t eat what’s advertised … or you might get E.Coli! GEEEE-ROSSS!!!

  • Terry Wolfisch Cole

    Does cooking kill the e. coli? Is this being transmitted by people eating raw cookie dough?

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  • Janet Camp

    These things don’t affect me–I make my own cookies for heaven’s sake! It takes about five minutes to mix them up, so why do people buy these products? If you do, I guess the best policy is to not eat any of it raw (which is half the fun of making cookies!)

    The peanut butter scare was also junk food by-products, not peanut butter from the jar.

    I’m all for prevention, but what’s it going to cost? These products are already overpriced. Of course, it makes sense in the case of produce and we have to do it for everything in the interest of preventing illness, so I guess people who use these products will have to pay for their “convenience”.

  • Don McIntosh

    On hearing the latest food scandal, my first reaction was Janet’s: Why do people buy several-day-old cookie dough that’s full of preservatives, when it takes five minutes to mix together butter, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, chocolate chips?
    But I like the scientific curiosity Marion Nestle brings to the question. Not to justify industrial food, but it seems like they have so much to lose by these outbreaks? Is there something about industrial food processing that makes the food vulnerable to these outbreaks, as opposed to them occurring because of corporate negligence and penny-pinching? That might be worth following up on.

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