Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Diet Destruction

I have never actually been a real grown-up over the holidays before.  I've always been a student, cramming for exams.  My strategy for cramming for exams usually also involves cramming food into my mouth at a more abundant rate than is typical for any human being.  I somehow manage to find time to bake a lot more during exams that I do during the rest of the year.  Not to mention I somehow managed to wander my way into the kitchen every 5 minutes convinced that I was 'hungry' when actuality I was just bored out of my mind of biochemistry or stats or microbiology.

Turns out that there are very few things worse for healthy eating than working in an office over the holidays.  Instead of just having to deal with your own baking marathons, you have to weave your way through everyone in the office's baking sprees too!  There are countless parties, all of which include a potluck or buffet meal, office cookie exchanges and countless other delicious treats being brought into the office every day.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays, including holiday baking, but I can only take so much of it!  It's still almost 2 weeks until Christmas and I have a potluck, cookie exchange and hospital christmas party/dinner to go over the next week.

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls
Today a co-worker brought in chocolate covered cookie dough balls.  Working in Public Health, there are a few of us who are slightly food safety conscious.  Raw cookie dough, as delicious as it is, is actually considered an unsafe food because it contains raw eggs, which have the potential to carry salmonella.  This normally doesn't stop me from licking the bowl and beaters clean when I'm baking cookies but it would definitely worry me if I was serving raw cookie dough to a group of people.  I'd be too afraid that someone would get sick to serve it!  Luckily this recipe didn't contain egg so we were in the clear.

However, according to a recent study investigating the cause of an e.coli outbreak that was traced back to raw cookie dough in 2009, raw egg may not be the ingredient to worry about!  This outbreak involved commercially available cookie dough, and in most commercially available products that contain eggs, the eggs are pasteurized which kills pathogens that could cause harm.  Actually, every single ingredient in the cookie dough underwent pasteurization, even the baking soda and margarine used in it's preparation, except for the flour.  When analyzing commercially available wheat flour, researchers found that 13% of samples were contaminated with salmonella.  Although the study was somewhat inconclusive, and researchers can't actually state that the flour was the definitive cause of the outbreak, they still recommend that raw cookie dough not be consumed, whether you buy it commercially or make it at home.

My favorite part of this study was the random stats on raw cookie dough consumption:

My first thought was that only 53% admitted to eating unbaked cookie dough.  Guaranteed that way more people eat raw cookie dough than 53%.  The key word is 'admitted'.  I'm not convinced the will power to bake cookies without eating a bit of dough even exists.  I have to admit though, I'm not surprised that some of the dough was purchased with no intention of baking cookies.  

Even though I probably have more food safety knowledge than the majority of people given my Food and Nutritional Sciences degree, and I know that cookie dough may carry e. coli or salmonella when consumed raw, it never seems to go through my head when a bowl of cookie dough is sitting in front of me.  

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