It’s easy to identify the most common causes of foodborne illnesses; Undercooked proteins, ready-to-eat items contaminated by unwashed hands and produce that contacts pathogens in the dirt. Lately, we’ve noticed an increase in recalls and reports of illnesses caused by E.coli in raw flour. We’d like to take a look at the hazards of raw flour and how you can prevent contaminated product from sickening your guests.
Raw Flour and E.coli
Raw flour isn’t exactly something that appears on everyday menus. In fact, we’ve never been to a restaurant where the wait staff has asked if we’d like to order a side of raw flour while we wait for our meal. If that ever does happen, we’ll take some time to question the chef’s qualifications before proceeding with our order.
Raw flour is, however, an ingredient in many different types of foods. Food service professionals use it in bread doughs, desserts, breading for fried foods and as thickening agents in soups and sauces. So how can we prevent E.coli that may exist in raw flour products from reaching our guests? Here’s a few tips:
- Treat raw flour and products with raw flour ingredients as a high-risk food
- Always sanitize preparation surfaces raw flour has contacted
- Wash all utensils that contact raw flour before reusing
- Fully cook products with flour ingredients to kill bacteria
- Monitor recall notices for flour contamination
Food safety managers need to alert staff that E.coli in raw flour can sicken guests. Review cross contamination guidelines and remind employees that just like raw chicken, allowing prepared food to contact raw flour can potentially spread pathogens to your guests. Most products with flour ingredients are cooked well enough to kill E.coli. Just remember, do not undercook foods with flour ingredients.
Finally, remember that flour is a common allergen and can sicken your guests even if it does not contain the dangerous E.coli bacteria. You may wish to include a disclaimer on your menus and packaging that your products either contain or may have come into contact with wheat flour during preparation.
Do you know of any other under-the-radar food that could sicken guests that we should investigate?