Arguably the best part about making cookies during the holidays is getting a sneak spoonful of the raw dough before it goes in the oven. Like with tons of other great-tasting grub, however, it’s so not good for us. In fact, two years ago, 77 people in 30 states became ill from doing just that.

New research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease found that the culprit of a 2009 multi-state E. coli outbreak was ready-to-bake prepackaged cookie dough found in most grocery stores.

While the medical community originally assumed raw eggs in the dough were to blame, they’ve since turned their attention to the flour. Since it doesn’t go through the same processes as eggs, molasses, sugar, baking soda and margarine, it may very well have contained the pathogens that landed a few dozen people in the hospital.

“Consumption of cookie dough,” the authors wrote, “appears to be a popular practice, especially among adolescent females.” As evidence, they pointed out that among the patients who contracted E. coli from eating cookie dough, 66 percent were under 19 years old and almost three-quarters were female, many of whom reported they bought the dough with no intention of baking it.

While experts still say raw dough shouldn’t be eaten, several manufacturers told the FDA they’re now using heat-treated flour to keep consumers safe. Obviously, they know nothing can replace the therapeutic powers of eating blocks of cookie dough when you’ve had a bad day.

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