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That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

The very last place you would expect to find E. coli is in your refrigerator cookie dough. It’s happened, and now even cookie dough is a dangerous product.

When growing up, there was a whole lot of time spent in the kitchen gathered around the oven, waiting for those hot chocolate chip cookies to come out. Impatience defined that brief 15 minute period while the cookies spread with the heat and went golden brown. There was nothing better than homemade cookies.

Along comes the 21st century and time is in short supply, so short we have taken to cutting corners when it comes to baking at home. For example, Nestlé’s refrigerated cookie dough that lets anyone cut off cookie sized chunks, slap them on a cookie sheet and when the timer dings, they’re done. Nice and crumbly and delicious. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

It’s no longer applicable with refrigerated cookie dough, since a lot of people are eating the dough rather than baking the cookies. While that might save time, it evidently may also cause them to be severely ill with E. coli 0157:H7. This strain of E. coli has some particularly nasty symptoms and has, over the last year, laid at least 72 people in 30 states flat out. What a world. We can’t even trust the cookie dough in the fridge. What’s worse is that Nestlé’s still hasn’t figured out “why” their dough is contaminated. Hardly a statement to instill consumer confidence.

Nestlé’s has cried “Mea culpa” and yanked its most recent batch of cookie dough out of circulation. Meaning, when they were doing routine testing at their main plant in early January 2010, they found two samples testing positive for E. coli. Dough produced before and after the contaminated cookie run was destroyed. Luckily, none of “that” batch was shipped. However, this recent move didn’t do much for the 72 folks who became deathly ill after eating “other” batches of tainted cookie dough. The company needs to be held accountable for their dangerous product and its affect on unsuspecting consumers.

While their proactive move in January to using heat-treated flour in their dough should make the product safer, the question is, what about the people who got sick earlier? Using the heat-treated flour will also mean a shortage of cookie dough on the market until March, when the new formulation hits the shelves.

So, why didn’t Nestlé’s do something about this earlier? Looks like the bottom line is that they had to reformulate their cookie recipes to make them still taste homemade and have the same cookie crumble texture. By all reports, they succeeded, and the new dough should be just dandy fine. The people who were violently ill will likely not be buying anymore refrigerated cookie dough; heat-treated flour or not. Consumers who have lived through wave after wave of dangerous product recalls, including Tylenol twice, are also jaded enough to revert to home cooking once more. It’s safer.

Right now, the company suggests that consumers don’t eat raw cookie dough and that they bake the cookies first. While the warning is welcome, it’s too late, and not everyone will be aware of the dangers even with the product warning. If you’ve eaten raw cookie dough and paid the price of becoming severely ill, or have a dangerous product horror story, you need to speak to a dangerous products lawyer who knows how to hold the culprits accountable. Find a people lawyer who will tell it like it is, not tell you what you want to hear.

Charlie Donahue is a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer located in Keene. Donahue handles injury cases in New Hampshire and across the United States. To learn more about New Hampshire injury attorney, Charlie Donahue, visit

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