The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told consumers yesterday not to eat any varieties of packaged Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough because the products could be contaminated with a potentially deadly form of E. coli.
Since March, at least 66 people in 28 states have fallen ill after eating the dough. Of those, 25 people were hospitalized and seven developed a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which leads to kidney damage and lifetime health issues and is often responsible for E. coli illness deaths.
So far, there are no documented deaths from the outbreak, according to the CDC.
Nestle, a Swiss food giant that runs its U.S. operations out of Glendale, Calif., has voluntarily recalled all varieties of Nestle Toll House refrigerated dough, including Cookie Bar Dough, Cookie Dough Tub, Cookie Dough Tube, Limited Edition Cookie Dough items, Seasonal Cookie Dough, and Ultimates Cookie Bar Dough. The recall extends beyond chocolate-chip cookies to all flavors.
The FDA advised consumers to throw away any of the recalled products they may have. Customers can also return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Roz O'Hearn, spokeswoman for Nestle's baking division, said the company took action within 24 hours of learning of the problem.
It also said in a statement: "We want to strongly advise consumers that raw cookie dough should not be eaten. This message also appears prominently on our packaging."
The FDA, though, said consumers also should not eat cookies made from the recalled dough because the bacteria could transfer to hands and preparation surfaces.
The strain of pathogen connected to the outbreak, E. coli O157:H7, causes abdominal cramping, vomiting, and a diarrheal illness, often with bloody stools. Periodic E. coli outbreaks linked to spinach, lettuce, and ground beef have sickened thousands and caused at least a dozen deaths in recent years.
Nestle holds a 41 percent share of the prepared cookie-dough market.