Is vegan cookie dough safe to eat? (how to improve safety)
In this article, we will discuss whether vegan cookie dough is safe to eat, what are the risks of eating vegan cookie dough, who should never eat vegan cookie dough and how to reduce the risks of eating vegan cookie dough.
Vegan cookies can be made with a variety of ingredients, such as wheat flour or other types of flour, nuts, sugar, dried fruits, oil and baking powder. A vegan cookie should not contain eggs, butter or milk, which are commonly found in regular cookies.
Is vegan cookie dough safe to eat?
Yes, vegan cookie dough is safe to eat when the cookie dough has been made with previously heated wheat flour (2). Raw wheat flour, however, is not safe to eat (1), as it may carry many pathogens, including Salmonella and Escherichia coli.
The safety of eating vegan cookie dough varies, depending on the ingredients used in the dough. Vegan cookies can be prepared without flour by mixing nuts, powdered seeds and fruits, such as mashed bananas, having thus minimum risks (5).
Why is wheat flour not safe to eat uncooked?
Wheat flour is not safe to eat uncooked due to the possible microbial contamination of wheat flour. Wheat can be contaminated during its production process by animal faeces, soil, equipment and human handling (1).
Several food outbreaks have been reported related to the consumption of uncooked wheat flour and cookie dough, especially by pathogenic bacteria Salmonella enterica, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and others.
Foodborne illnesses caused by the ingestion of these microorganisms or their toxins can cause symptoms such as bloody and watery diarrhoea, vomiting and fever, and lead to hospitalisation and death (6).
What are the risks of eating vegan cookie dough?
The risks of eating vegan cookie dough are summarised in the table below (1, 2, 4, 6):
|The ingestion of contaminated raw ingredients, especially wheat flour, can carry pathogenic microorganisms, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli, but also fungi and viruses. The ingested microorganisms multiply in the host and infect organs, especially the gastrointestinal tract||Infections by pathogenic bacteria can cause diarrhoea, in some cases bloody or watery, vomiting, nausea, fever, dark urine and weight loss|
|The ingestion of toxins produced by microorganisms, especially fungi and bacteria||Poisoning by toxins from foods can cause diarrhoea, often watery and bloody, damage to the intestinal mucosa, and kidney failure. Fungal toxins are mutagenic and can cause damage to the kidney and liver|
Is regular cookie dough safer than vegan cookie dough?
No, regular cookie dough is not safer than vegan cookie dough, when both are made with raw wheat flour or other raw ingredients. On the other hand, regular cookie dough made with raw eggs can be more dangerous than vegan dough (3).
Raw eggs are one of the most frequent causes of food outbreaks related to the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella in France (3). On the other hand, unroasted nuts can contain a high level of fungal contamination and pathogens as well (4).
Who should never eat vegan cookie dough?
Elderly individuals, pregnant women, small children, newborns and immunocompromised individuals should never eat vegan cookie dough or any other cookie dough (6).
The risks of infections, prolonged disease and aggravation of the diseases increase in these individuals due to their weakened immune systems. For instance, infection by Listeria monocytogenes in the elderly can lead to blood infection or meningitis.
In the case of pregnant women, infections by L. monocytogenes can lead to stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage.
How to improve the safety of eating vegan cookie dough?
To improve the safety of eating vegan cookie dough or any cookie dough, you can heat the wheat flour or the other flour used in the recipe, as well as roast the nuts before using them in the dough (2).
According to studies, heating the flour in the oven at 205 °C (400 °F) for 7 minutes could significantly reduce the microbial load of Salmonella by 5-log CFU/ g. Similarly, roasting cashew nuts resulted in a reduction in microbial contamination (4).
Therefore, using raw ingredients previously heated or roasted to make vegan cookie dough can improve its safety.
In addition, you should follow good and safe food handling and improved hygienic practices, good storage of the ingredients, use of fresh ingredients and avoiding cross-contamination (3).
In this article, we discussed whether it is safe to eat vegan cookie dough, what are the risks of eating vegan cookie dough, whether regular cookie dough is safer than vegan dough and how to improve the safety of eating cookie dough.
Consuming cookie dough is not safe, independent if it is vegan. Baking does not only improve the safety of food but also its sensory properties. Baked cookies are more aromatic and flavourful and that is why I always eat only baked cookies.
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Myoda SP, Gilbreth S, Akins-Lewenthal D, Davidson SK, Samadpour M. Occurrence and levels of Salmonella, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli, and Listeria in raw wheat. Journal of Food protection. 2019 Jan 1;82(6):1022-7.
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