There is something about the term "cookie dough shortage" that doesn’t quite sound serious. Still, the recent events that may lead to such a storage are just that. Elizabeth Weise of the USA Today is reporting that Nestle’s cookie dough may be in short supply after making a change in its process to increase safety.
Nestle recently announced a move to heat treating the flour used in the cookie dough after two recent positive tests for E. coli O157:H7. Last year an outbreak of the dangerous pathogen linked to Nestle cookie dough sickened at least 72 people in 30 states.
One issued raised by the developments is the level of risk of bacterial contamination of flour. Ms. Weise states:
In general, flour is not considered dangerous. However, a 2007 study published in the Journal of Food Protection did find salmonella contamination in 0.14% to 1.32% of wheat flour samples. A 1993 study in the journal Cereal Foods World found that 12.8% of wheat samples were positive for generic E. coli, which is harmless but can indicate contamination with animal fecal matter.
One of our biggest food safety challenges is staying ahead of which foods are the most risky, and most in need of monitoring. Some aspects of not-yet-passed food safety legislation tie the level of inspection required to the level of risk associated with the product. To carry out such a regulatory scheme, however, we must first understand where our risks are coming from.