Why You Should Never Eat Raw Flour

Remember when you were a kid, and your mom would yell at you when you tried to eat raw cookie dough, claiming that the raw eggs would give you salmonella? Well, turns out Mom was right — but missing half the story.

The health risks of eating raw eggs, meat, or shellfish are well-known and well-documented. We've even started to pay more attention to the potential dangers of raw vegetables like lettuce. But did you know that eating raw flour can make you sick? According to the CDC, raw flour is one of the foods that is most likely to contribute to food poisoning, so everyone should steer clear.

Raw flour, as its name suggests, comes from raw grains. These grains and the flour they produce are not sterilized at any point in the production process. They can be exposed to all manner of bacteria, including E. coli and Salmonella. And since you can't really wash flour, the only way to make it safe to eat is to cook it.

Heat treating flour

Bacterial outbreaks linked to flour can spread far and fast, as Salmonella did in a 2023 case linked to Gold Medal brand flour (per the FDA). Luckily, there are ways to make flour safe to eat, even if it's not consumed as part of a fully cooked dish. You can heat-treat raw flour by bringing it to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or more. You can either do this by baking it for about ten minutes in an oven set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or by microwaving it for a few minutes in a heat-safe bowl. Microwave in small intervals, like 30 seconds, and stir between each zapping. If baking in the oven, lining your baking sheet with parchment paper may make it easier to funnel your flour into another vessel after it has properly been heat treated.

Another way to prevent your flour from making you sick is to make sure it is always properly stored. Once opened, flour should be sealed in an airtight container. Keeping your flour cool and dry will help prevent bacteria growth.

Uses for heat treated flour

You can use heat-treated flour to make no-bake desserts like cookie dough. Even if you plan on cooking your dough, toasted flour might be the key to the tastiest baked goods you've ever had. However, it's important to note that most no-bake cookie dough recipes do not contain eggs, so they are safe to eat raw but cannot then be baked into actual cookies. Milk is usually substituted for eggs to achieve the correct consistency.

There are also several brands that make safe-to-eat cookie dough products. The Cookie Dough Café is one of them, as is Stew Leonard's, which sells scoops of cookie dough in cones like ice cream. New York City's Dō sells edible cookie dough in their boutiques, and they sell both cookie dough and heat-treated flour on their online store. As the flour is quite pricey, it would be a lot more cost-effective to just heat-treat normal store-bought flour yourself.