6 in Washington sickened by salmonella in Papa Murphy’s cookie dough

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a new multistate outbreak of salmonella.

The agency says 18 people across six states -- including six people in Washington state -- have been sickened by eating raw Papa Murphy’s cookie dough. Papa Murphy’s has temporarily stopped selling its raw chocolate chip cookie dough and s’mores dough.

While it used to be that eggs were the source of salmonella, now it’s flour.

Over the last several years, there have been more and more bacterial outbreaks linked to the use of raw flour. Jesse Jones spoke with Bill Marler, one of the nation’s leaders in food safety about the outbreak. This newest investigation comes just weeks after it was concluded 13 people who were infected with the bacteria earlier in the year became sick after consuming Gold Medal brand flour.

“Everyone should understand that the flour that you buy in stores is raw. And so it’s likely that the flour that was used in the production of these Papa Murphy’s cookies was raw,” Marler detailed.

He says unless it’s labeled as safe to eat, any kind of dough should be treated as raw, and not for consumption.

So, how does flour become contaminated? The food safety expert says just like eggs — flour can be contaminated by rodents or cockroaches in the mill.

“We don’t really sometimes know exactly where the contamination event occurs and it may well occur further up the chain,” Marler said. “You know, when the wheat is being grown in the fields.”

For now, people should be careful when handling flour.

  • Do not taste or eat any raw dough or batter.

  • Do not let children play with or eat raw dough, including dough for crafts.

  • Bake raw dough (such as cookie dough) and batter (such as cake mix) before eating.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling flour or raw eggs.

The CDC estimates that salmonella bacteria cause approximately 1.35 million human infections and 26,500 hospitalizations in the United States every year.