The CDC is investigating an ongoing multistate outbreak of E. coli that’s sickened more than a dozen people and left several hospitalized. Though no source has been identified for certain yet, the cases appear to be traced back to contaminated cake mix batter.
People naturally carry some E. coli bacteria in their guts. But certain strains (usually transmitted through eating food) are more likely to cause illness than others, particularly in very young people or those with already weakened immune systems. Like many foodborne infections, E. coli tends to cause symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. In more serious cases, people can have bloody diarrhea and develop a life-threatening form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
According to the CDC, as of July 28, at least 16 people in 12 states have contracted the same outbreak strain of E. coli bacteria, dating back to early March. Of these, seven were hospitalized and one developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, but none have died. It’s likely that the outbreak is larger, but milder cases tend to go unreported, since many might never even go to the doctor.
Of the eight people the CDC has interviewed so far, six reported recently eating or tasting raw cake batter, but they all reported buying different varieties and brands of cake mix. The Food and Drug Administration, according to the CDC, is currently conducting a trackback investigation to see if they can identify a common brand or production facility linked to these cases.
Uncooked cake or cookie batter is a common source of foodborne illness—one that the CDC routinely tries to dissuade people from eating, seemingly to no avail. This risk can come from the raw eggs mixed into the batter, but even raw flour by itself or in cake mix can carry disease-causing germs like E. coli.
For those still eager to nosh on dough, cookie dough flavored ice creams remain perfectly safe to eat. And companies like Pillsbury have recently started releasing their own line of cookie doughs that have been made with pasteurized eggs and heat-treated flour, which should make them safe to eat even raw. But for everyone else who uses other brands or makes their own raw cookie/cake dough, just please stay from the delish but potentially dangerous kitchen treat, especially right now.