The FDA's latest kill-joy for thousands of kids (and their parents) who like to lick the bowl: Don't eat it. And not because of the raw eggs, which can be tied to salmonella poisoning, the Huffington Post notes. This time the culprit is raw flour, which has been linked to an E. coli outbreak that's sickened at least 38 people in 20 states since December, USA Today reported last month. This particular strain of E. coli (O121) is a Shiga toxin-producing variety that can cause diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and even death, per the CDC. The FDA warning even extends to parents who make homemade Play-Doh out of flour and water, as well as restaurants, schools, and daycare facilities that offer kids flour-based dough to play with, as the harmful bacteria can still be passed on by someone touching foods made with the flour.
General Mills voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of flour sold under the Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra names at the end of May (the FDA notes you should throw bags of these brands away), even though the agency says the danger could lurk in any brand. "Flour is derived from a grain that comes directly from the field and typically is not treated to kill bacteria," an FDA rep says—meaning bacteria "from a cow doing its business in the field" could end up being milled into flour, an Indianapolis infection specialist tells the New York Times. It's not common to see outbreaks of this sort linked to flour, a food safety lawyer told USA Today, noting the last time he could remember was a Nestle Toll House cookie dough recall in 2009. The FDA says if you've got to get your cookie dough fix, stick with commercially made ice creams that contain cookie dough chunks, as they're typically made with treated flour and pasteurized eggs. (A Slate columnist may have to give up her cookie dough habit.)