People Are Getting Salmonella From Flour—Here’s What You Need to Know

The CDC is warning about a salmonella outbreak linked to flour. A dozen people have gotten sick, with three hospitalized, across 11 states.

A salmonella outbreak across 11 states is linked to flour, with a dozen people falling ill, and three hospitalized. According to the Centers for Disease Control, most of those stricken reported eating raw dough or batter made with flour before they got sick. Flour was the only common ingredient in the dough or batter people ate. Currently, investigators are trying to identify what specific brand of flour is linked to the Salmonella outbreak.

Can Salmonella Be Found in Flour?

Most people think Salmonella can only be found in foods like raw eggs or raw chicken, but it can be found in flour, too. Flour doesn’t seem like a raw food, but most flour is actually raw. This means that it hasn’t been treated to kill the germs that cause food poisoning.

According to the CDC, any unbaked or uncooked flour used to make dough or batter could potentially be contaminated with germs like salmonella, but typically, those salmonella germs are killed when flour is cooked or baked. This is one of the reasons why you can get sick after eating or tasting raw dough or batter. Also, children can get sick from handling or eating raw play dough used for crafts.

What States Have Been Affected by Salmonella in Flour?

So far, the salmonella outbreak has affected:

  • California
  • Oregon
  • Nebraska
  • Minnesota
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • New York
  • Illinois

With the exception of Illinois, one person in each of those states has fallen ill. In Illinois, two people have gotten sick.

What Is Salmonella and What Are Its Symptoms?

Newspaper Headline "Salmonella Poisoning" in stack of papersLilliDay/Getty Images

Salmonella is a type of bacteria responsible for causing food poisoning in roughly 1.2 million people every year and is the second most common cause of food poisoning in the United States.

The symptoms of salmonella poisoning normally kick in between 12 and 72 hours after eating contaminated food. (That means if you start to feel queasy right after eating, it’s likely not salmonella to blame.) The first symptom is usually diarrhea, but abdominal pain and fever are also common. You can expect these to last a few days, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

Call a healthcare provider right away if you or your child have diarrhea and a fever higher than 102°F, diarrhea for more than three days that is not improving, bloody diarrhea, so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down or signs of dehydration,

How to Use Flour Safely

Here are some tips to avoid getting sick from raw flour.

  • Never eat raw dough or batter, as even a small amount can make you or your child sick.
  • Always bake or cook any food made with raw flour, such as cookie dough or cake batter, before eating it.
  • Always follow the recipe or package instructions for cooking or baking.
  • Cook at the temperature and cooking time stated in the instructions.
  • Be sure to wash any bowls, utensils and surfaces that touched raw flour with warm water and soap.
  • Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after using raw flour.
  • Keep raw flour, dough or batter separate from foods that won’t be cooked.