First I was betrayed by Chipotle, and now by raw cookie dough: both have reportedly been shown to have E. coli. As a college student, these are my main two food groups, so the news has been quite devastating – a cruel joke forcing me to re-examine my dietary choices.
Surprisingly, for cookie dough the problem is not the raw eggs—it’s the flour. General Mills has issued a recall of Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour, all brands of flour that have been reported to have E. coli. While most E. coli is harmless (in fact, you have E. coli bacteria in your intestines right now that keep you healthy!), some E. coli can cause illness. Gold Medal has been reported to have Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). If you consume products with STEC, you can become ill for 5-7 days (and in severe cases may have to go to the hospital). Thus, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control have warned against eating or even touching raw dough.
Agilent liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC/MS) instruments are improving the discovery of E. coli and its contaminant bacterial host cell proteins (HCPs). LC/MS instruments combine the safe physical particle separation aspect of liquid chromatography with the analytical abilities of mass spectrometry. In other words, Agilent LC/MS instruments are making it easier to quantify HCPs and then better identify which HCPs are present. These instruments make it possible to understand whether or not a product contains E. coli.
As E. coli continues to be discovered in flour, it’s important to know easy ways to avoid it. By baking, frying, sautéing or boiling products containing flour, you rid them of STEC. After handling products with flour that have not been cooked, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly (and wash all surfaces and cooking items that have touched the raw flour). Younger children are especially susceptible to STEC, so be careful when baking near your children.
Well, at least Chipotle is back on the menu. Meanwhile, I will be baking with latex gloves and eating only well-baked, gooey cookies—and one day soon I will learn how to make a salad.
Today’s post was written by Agilent Communications’ summer intern!
- New York Times, “FDA Warns Against Eating Raw Cookie Dough”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Multistate Outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O121 Infections Linked to Flour”
- Agilent, “Determination of Contaminant Bacterial Host Cell Proteins in Recombinant Proteins Expressed in E. Coli by LC-QQQ” (PDF)
- Agilent Liquid Chromatography
- Agilent Mass Spectrometry