Federal authorities are
investigating a new outbreak of bacteria-triggered illness related to a
sweet treat treasured by the heartbroken and children-at-heart — packaged
raw cookie dough.
Two cases of illness
have been associated with this product reported in North Carolina.
The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration said Friday that, since March, 66 people in 28 states have
fallen ill with symptoms caused by e. coli bacteria after eating Nestle
Toll House dough raw.
About 25 people have
been hospitalized but no one has died. E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium
that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration and, in the most severe
cases, kidney failure.
Nestle USA voluntarily
recalled all of its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products after
the FDA advised consumers to throw away any Nestle Toll House cookie
dough products in their homes and asked retailers, restaurateurs and
other foodservice operations not to sell or serve any of the products.
Customers also can
return any Nestle cookie dough product where they bought it for a full
refund. The recall does not affect other Toll House products, including
ice cream that contains Toll House raw cookie dough.
The federal Centers for
Disease Control also are investigating the illnesses.
"This has been a
very quickly moving situation," said Roz O'Hearn, spokeswoman for
the company's baking division, adding the company took action within 24
hours of learning of the problem.
Nestle USA spokeswoman
Laurie MacDonald said the company has temporarily stopped making the
dough while the FDA investigates its factory.
"We hope to resume
production as soon as possible," she said.
Nestle holds a 41
percent share of the prepared cookie dough market.
The recall includes
refrigerated cookie bar dough, cookie dough tubs, cookie dough tubes,
limited edition cookie dough items, seasonal cookie dough and Ultimates
cookie bar dough. Nestle said about 300,000 cases of Nestle Toll House
cookie dough are affected by the recall, which covers chocolate chip
dough, gingerbread, sugar, peanut butter dough and other varieties.
The FDA said consumers
should not try to cook the dough, even though it would be safe to eat if
cooked, because the bacteria could move to their hands and to countertops
and other cooking surfaces.
The cookie dough is
nearly as popular raw as it is cooked. There are more than 40 raw cookie
dough groups on Facebook — one with more than 3,000 members — complete
with photos of dough and postings that read like love notes. Most do not
relate directly to Nestle products.
Stacey Oyler, a 33-year
old San Francisco resident, called raw cookie dough her "secret
indulgence" — a treat that became irresistible when she was pregnant
with her second child last August. She said she still indulges
"I love the
combination of the salt and sweet," she said. "You can't get that
from a piece of chocolate."
Raw cookie dough may be
tasty, but it isn't necessarily safe. The eggs in Nestle Toll House's
dough are pasteurized, which eliminates most of the risk of salmonella
infection that is present in raw eggs. But other raw ingredients could
contain other pathogens or bacteria. The company warns in product labels
not to eat the dough raw.
Several recent food
recalls have been related to bacterial contamination, including a
salmonella outbreak last winter traced to a peanut company that sickened
more than 600 people and that was blamed for at least nine deaths. A
separate outbreak of salmonella last year linked to jalapeno peppers from
Mexico led 1,400 people to become ill.
Sarah Klein, staff
attorney in the food safety group at consumer advocacy group Center for
Science in the Public Interest, called the news disheartening.
don't think that people who have been working in food safety for years
can be surprised at this point and sadly, I don't think the American
people are surprised, either," Klein said.
AP Business Writer
Michelle Chapman contributed to this report.