Does your child eat raw play dough?
The US Food and Drug Administration warns that certain bacteria could make your child very sick. Seeing as we've all eaten raw dough in our lives, should we brush it off as paranoia or should we heed? Here are the facts - decide for yourself.
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We have all been warned against consuming raw eggs, given the risk associated with salmonella, but now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says consuming or even playing with raw dough should be stopped.

Jenny Scott, a senior advisor for the FDA’s Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says: “Eating raw dough or batter – whether it’s for bread, cookies, pizza or tortillas – could make you, and your kids, sick.”

She adds that flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria which causes disease.

Recent outbreak in the US

Recently, the FDA and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other local and state officials, started investigating an outbreak of infections. Many people across the US have fallen ill after contracting a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121.

It was discovered some patients either consumed or handled raw dough produced by certain flour mill in Missouri. Subsequent tests linked the bacteria in a flour sample to the bacteria from people who had fallen ill.

The mill has voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of flour under their various brand names, including different variants – unbleached, all-purpose and self-raising.

The CDC has advised restaurants not to do supply raw dough for kids to play with while waiting for their meals, as the flour may also have been supplied from these mills.

Kill off the bacteria

“Flour is derived from a grain which comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," says Dr Leslie Smoot, a senior advisor for the FDA’s Office of Food Safety and a specialist in the microbiological safety of processed foods.

If animals defecate or urinate in the wheat field, the animal excrement could contaminate the grain, which is subsequently harvested and milled into flour.

Ways to kill off bacteria is through boiling, baking, roasting, frying and microwave-cooking.

They also warn people against making home-made cookie dough ice cream, suggesting instead that people purchase commercially manufactured products, because their ingredients should include pasteurised eggs and treated flour.

Symptoms and warning signs of e.coli:

Common symptoms for those infected with the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli are diarrhoea (often bloody) and abdominal cramps, even though most people recover within a week.

Some illnesses last longer and could be more severe, resulting in hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) – a type of kidney failure, which could occur in people of any age, but is most common in younger children under 5 years old, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

The FDA also warned parents of younger children who attend crèche or pre-school, to ensure the child doesn't consume raw dough or clay while playing with it. If children aren’t eating the dough, they’re putting their hands in their mouths after handling the dough. Crèches and pre-schools have also been advised to put a stop to playing with raw dough.

Scott also says even though there are websites dedicated to flour crafts, parents shouldn’t give their children raw dough or baking mixes containing flour to play with.

Guidelines:

  • Do not eat any raw cookie dough, cake mix, batter, or any other raw dough or batter products meant to be cooked or baked.
  • Follow package directions for cooking products containing flour at proper temperatures and for specified times.
  • Wash hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  • Keep raw foods separate from other foods while preparing them to prevent any contamination which may be presentfrom spreading. Be aware flour may spread easily due to its powdery consistency.
  • Follow label directions to chill products containing raw dough promptly after purchase until baked.

What are your thoughts around the warning? Do you think it holds any merit or is it the US going to far? Let us know what you think by emailing chatback@parent24.com.

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