Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Confessions from a Raw Cookie Dough Eater - A Nestle and Egg Discussion

You know you do it. I do. I tried to get my son to bake chocolate chip cookies today, just so I could snitch at the raw dough. In the wake of the recent Nestle raw cookie dough recall, we need to remember that raw eggs can contain e. coli or salmonella. Though eggs are washed (most bacteria is on the shell) read the USDA site to learn all about eggs and how easily contamination can occur. Cooking eggs and meat to the proper temperature (usually 140 degrees or higher), ensures that any bacteria is eradicated. Raw cookie dough doesn't get this second pass of bacteria-busting.

I called Nestle about their cookie dough and a real person named Edie responded right back by phone and then by e-mail: pretty amazing when you consider how many calls they must be getting. I wanted to know if they used powdered or liquid eggs in their mix because these egg products are typically pasteurized. They do use powdered eggs, and the eggs are pasteurized. As much as I hate to admit it, when we are talking about salmonella and e.coli, Nestle processed cookie dough is safer than my made from scratch cookie dough made with unpasteurized eggs. When I jokingly admitted that I am a raw cookie dough snitcher, Edie wrote, "Please note that we strongly advise consumers that our cookie dough should not be eaten raw." They clearly did not find my admission humorous or cute.

That doesn't mean we should all stop buying eggs and stock our shelves with powdered egg product. Not all eggs are created equally. According to Mother Earth News, the differences in these oval wonders are vast. Their two recent independent studies were done to examine a difference between "true free range" eggs and commercial eggs.

I spoke with Mother Earth News in researching She-Smoke and asked why they did the study in the first place. They stated that the problem with past studies that showed very little difference between free-range and commercial eggs, was because true free range eggs were not used. Instead, eggs from chickens raised in the "minimum" requirement for free-range classification were tested. The minimum "access to outdoors" for the free-range label is different from eggs from "pastured" chickens, or chickens that spend a significant amount of time foraging outside.
In the 2007 study here, true free range eggs had across the board and significantly higher amounts of vitamin E, vitamin A, Beta Carotene, and Omega-3's, and lower amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. Their most recent study shows true free range eggs contain 4 to six times more vitamin D.

Other studies out there say the only difference is in price. A reporter from the Vancouver Sun wrote a rather cantankerous article saying the whole free-range thing's a marketing ploy, nothing more. But a reason to buy locally and know where your eggs come from is that the environment in which a chicken is raised effects the health of the egg. Here is a study that tested free range eggs from chickens that live near known big polluters like nuclear waste sites and chlorine manufacturers. The eggs from those areas showed significant chemical markers of the pollutants. Who knows where the eggs are from in processed mixes? This includes things like pancake mix or cake mixes in which you "just add water". Definitely buy the ones where you get to add the eggs. Buy your eggs locally, (unless, of course, you live near a nuclear dump site. Then ship 'em in from elsewhere!)

As for e. coli and salmonella in free-range vs. commercial eggs, the percentage found is about the same, or even slightly higher in free-range eggs. This is in part because the true free-range chickens come in contact with one another. If one gets it, a bacteria can be passed more easily to the other chickens. So we go back to proper cooking temperatures, and that means no snitching at the dough, even if the eggs in your scratch dough are way more nutritious/less icky than in the commercial mix.
In response to that, I leave you with a recipe for my standard "Sweet Fix" when there are no sweets in the house. I rename this recipe today as: "Gawd-I'm-craving-raw-cookie-dough-but don't-wanna-get-e. coli-no-bake-cookies". Here it is:
2 heaping soup-spoon-sized spoonfuls of peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
a handful of chocolate chips
a handful of cereal
optional: dried fruit

Mix it all evenly and eat. If you want you can roll the mixture into cookie balls so you feel more civilized about your sweet fix.

I was supposed to take a picture, but I ate mine while writing this post. The next day, however, I just had to make some chocolate chip cookies with my son. Did I deny him licking the beater, and did I show restraint with my own snitches? I hang my head and tell you no. My warm fuzzy memories of baking cookies with mom and licking the spoon are deeply imbedded. I want to be blissfully ignorant. How about you? The confessional is open.

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