The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an investigation notice released Thursday that flour is believed to be the source of a multi-state salmonella outbreak that has sickened about a dozen people and hospitalized three.
The company said it was unclear which brand the outbreak might be related to.
“State and local public health officials are interviewing people about the foods they ate in the week before they became ill. 6 in 7 (86%) of those interviewed reported eating raw flour or dough,” the CDC said. “Flour was the only common ingredient in raw flour or pita that people reported eating. Investigators are working to identify a specific brand of raw flour that is linked to illness.”
Most flour is raw, that is, it has not been treated to kill germs that cause food poisoning. When flour is mixed into flour or batter and baked, Salmonella bacteria are killed in the process, but people can get sick from raw flour or batter.
No deaths have been linked to the outbreak at this time, the CDC said. Ill people have been identified in California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia. The first illness was reported in early December 2022, the agency said.
“The actual number of people sickened in this outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be confined to states with known illness,” the agency said in a statement detailing the investigation.
To avoid illness, the agency recommends not eating raw flour or batter, as even small amounts can cause illness. Baked goods should also be prepared according to directions, to ensure that germs are completely killed. This warning is in effect even when there is no outbreak, the CDC said.
Heat-treated flour, which is not raw, can be used as a substitute in homemade playdough or raw product recipes.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Symptoms may begin within six hours of exposure to the bacteria, but may begin as late as six days. Most people recover without treatment within four to seven days, the CDC reports. Elderly people, children and those with weakened immune systems may need to be hospitalized if they experience severe illness. The CDC recommends calling a health care provider if you experience diarrhea, high fever, signs of dehydration, or extreme vomiting for more than three days.