Is dry cake mix safe to eat? (Main risks)
In this brief article, we are going to answer the question “Is dry cake mix safe to eat?” We also will discuss how some ingredients can get contaminated and how to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Is dry cake mix safe to eat?
No, dry cake mix is not safe to eat. Raw cake mix can contain bacteria that make you sick. Most flour is raw and it hasn’t been treated to kill harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella. These harmful bacteria can contaminate grain while it’s still in the field or flour while it’s being made ending up on baking mixes.
Raw eggs are another ingredient that can carry this risk as raw and lightly cooked eggs can contain Salmonella. There are in the market some edible cookie dough and brownie batter. These products are made with heat-treated flour and pasteurized eggs or no eggs. That information is present on the label, and only these products are safe to eat without backing. (1)
How can flour get contaminated?
The microbiological quality of wheat grains significantly influences the safety and quality of flour. In the process of making flour from wheat grains, there is no established method to eliminate pathogens effectively. As a result, wheat flour has been linked to several foodborne disease outbreaks caused by Escherichia coli and Salmonella.
Cereal crops, such as wheat grown in fields, are vulnerable to various sources of microbial contamination from the natural environment, including the air, water, windblown dust, soil, insects, and the presence of bird and rodent feces. Microbial contamination of wheat can also take place during the stages of harvesting, handling, post-harvest drying, and storage.
Furthermore, the microorganisms that contaminate wheat can be easily spread within and between batches of wheat grains due to the equipment used during harvesting and handling, as well as during the transfer of the grains into storage silos. (2)
How can eggs get contaminated?
Salmonella can be present on the outer shells of eggs, typically occurring when birds lay the eggs or when eggs come into contact with bird feces after being laid. It’s worth noting that handling eggs purchased from a grocery store is not a common source of illness since these eggs are thoroughly washed before they are made available in stores.
Furthermore, Salmonella can penetrate the interior of eggs during their formation inside the chicken, before the eggshell is developed. Cake mix manufacturers, producers of sweet confections, and meringue powder manufacturers typically incorporate dried egg products into their recipes.
The drying process effectively eliminates many of the bacteria initially present in liquid eggs. Once the product is in its dry state, the microbiological population stabilizes, and any further reduction in quality occurs slowly, even at room temperature. The primary bacteria found in dried egg products are enterococci and Bacillus species.
During the drying process, the number of Salmonella bacteria can be reduced by a factor of 10,000. However, Salmonella can still pose a challenge in dried egg products. Despite the expectation that Salmonella should be absent in pasteurized liquid eggs before the drying process, it can occasionally contaminate the final packaged dry product. (3-5)
Why can eating dry cake mix be dangerous?
In contrast to processed foods, these ready-to-bake products have not undergone a validated process to eliminate microbial safety hazards, which means they rely on consumers to carry out the critical step in ensuring safety. Dry cake mixes can present a notable safety challenge because they depend on consumers to perform the final cooking step.
Pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli don’t need to reach a high cell count to cause illness, making it essential to avoid consuming raw cake mix. (6)
How to avoid illness from dry cake mix?
The most effective way to prevent illness when using dry cake mix is by ensuring proper baking. When the product is baked, it exposes the mix to high temperatures that can eliminate vegetative microorganisms, significantly reducing spoilage and potentially harmful bacteria.
It’s important to note that while heat can be lethal to most bacteria, certain types of bacterial spores like those from the Bacillus genus are highly resistant and may survive and multiply during the cooling phase. Therefore, it remains crucial to always ensure thorough cooking of the final product. (6)
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning symptoms vary in severity, depending on the specific microorganism ingested. They can range from more severe manifestations to just mild discomfort. When someone contracts an E. coli infection, they typically experience bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, and vomiting.
These symptoms usually appear 3 to 4 days after ingesting the bacteria and generally subside within a week. It is important to note that in some cases, individuals may develop a serious condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can result in kidney failure.
Salmonella infection symptoms, including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, typically manifest within a timeframe of 6 hours to 6 days after consuming the bacteria. These signs usually subside within 4 to 7 days. (1)
In this brief article, we answered the question “Is dry cake mix safe to eat?” We discussed how some ingredients can get contaminated and how to avoid foodborne illnesses.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Say No to Raw Dough. 2023.
THOMAS-POPO, Emalie et al. Inactivation of Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica and natural microflora on tempered wheat grains by atmospheric cold plasma. Food Control, v. 104, p. 231-239, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. Salmonella and Eggs. 2023.
Belyavin, C. G. Eggs: Use in the Food Industry. Encyclopedia of Food and Health, 476–479. 2016.
Delves-Broughton, J., & Board, R. G. EGGS | Microbiology of Egg Products. Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology, 569–573. 1999.
SABILLÓN, Luis; BIANCHINI, Andréia. From field to table: A review on the microbiological quality and safety of wheat‐based products. Cereal chemistry, v. 93, n. 2, p. 105-115, 2016.