Toxic E. coli bacteria was found in two samples of Nestle USA’s Toll House refrigerated cookie dough made at a Virginia plant, conjuring up bad memories of a similar outbreak just last summer that sickened at least 72 people across 30 states. Nestle said the contaminated dough did not leave the factory so no recall would be issued.
Since last summer, when Nestle recalled its refrigerated cookie dough due to the presence of E. coli 0157:H7, Nestle says it tests samples of every batch of dough it makes. The dough is not released for sale until the test results show the dough is safe. Nestle notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it discovered the two batches tested positive for the bacteria.
The mere presence of the bacteria in the dough is baffling to inspectors, who said that the strain found in the Nestle dough is typically spread after meat products have become contaminated with fecal matter. It can also be found on unwashed produce. But the contaminated cookie dough products at the Nestle plant don’t contain ingredients that typically harbor the bacteria, nor does the plant share facilities with other products.
The FDA is working with Nestle to pinpoint the source of this latest the E. coli contamination. Meantime, Nestle said it has shut down its Danville, Va., plant while it makes changes to its recipe and production processes. The company says it will switch to flour that has been heated to kill dangerous bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
E. coli is a potentially deadly bacterium that in even small amounts can make a person severely ill. The bacteria causes abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea. In the most severe cases, it can lead to kidney failure and death. Public health officials believe people became ill last summer after consuming the refrigerated cookie dough raw. The E. coli bacteria can be killed by cooking. Consumers are once again urged not to eat refrigerated cookie dough until it is thoroughly cooked.