Eating Raw Cookie Dough Really Can Make You Sick -- In Unexpected Ways

On the most recent episode of abysmally-marketed NBC sitcom Whitney, the title character and her live-in boyfriend, Alex, decided to adopt new holiday traditions instead of miserably visiting their families as they always had in the past. One of the crucial departures from the status quo came when the couple was making chocolate chip cookies. Alex tells Whitney that his mom never let him eat raw cookie dough, and Whitney responds by saying that she isn't his mother and wishes her boyfriend "Happy Salmonella" by way of giving him permission to eat away. He eats the cookie dough.

Bad move, Alex!

OK, fine, in the confines of the half-hour episode, he didn't become visibly ill. But a recent review of a 2009 food poisoning outbreak related to cookie dough shows just how much of a risk he was taking by eating the raw cookie dough.

Salmonella is a problem, as Whitney said. Fifty thousand people get salmonella every year, about a third of them under the age of four. The risk is especially when you make the cookie dough at home. Pre-made cookie mixes often use pasteurized eggs, which do not contain salmonella bacteria.

But this most recent study showed that even pre-made cookie dough presents real risks when it isn't cooked properly before being eaten. In the case of the 2009 outbreak, which sickened 77 people, the culprit seems to have been E. coli bacteria that originated in the flour within the dough, not the eggs. Most people don't eat raw flour often, so it doesn't immediately come to mind as a dangerous vector of pathogens.

The report indicated that the group most affected by the outbreak was teenaged girls, a group that's not exactly known for listening to all of mom's advice. But seriously ladies, even if you won't listen to your mom, listen to HuffPost Food, to the entire scientific community and to Whitney Cummings: Don't eat raw cookie dough.