MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – General Mills is recalling millions of pounds of Gold Medal flour products because of an E.coli outbreak.
The Golden Valley-based company announced Tuesday that while its products have yet to be directly linked to the outbreak, some of those who got sick reported using them, and three of the affected people are from the Twin Cities area.
Some 10 million pounds of flour are affected by the recall. Health officials say the outbreak has sickened 38 people in 20 states since December.
“In Minnesota, we have three cases that match the outbreak strain of E. Coli O121,” Doug Schultz of the Minnesota Department of Health said. “In other words, our three cases became ill in January and March of this year and have the same specimens that have the same DNA fingerprint as the other cases.”
General Mills has not been able to find that E. coli strain in any of its flour, but the CDC found that about half of the people sickened reported making something at home with flour before getting sick. The recall is cautionary.
What may be surprising to consumers is that bacteria like E.coli can be found in food items like flour. The MN Department of Health says flour should be treated much like many other raw ingredient.
“Chances are, those who got ill didn’t get ill from eating a baked good. They got ill from having raw flour somewhere and ingesting the raw flour,” Schultz said.
Flour comes from milling wheat, which is grown outdoors where there is plenty of bacteria. So officials say, don’t eat it raw. “We are saying don’t eat raw cookie dough, children shouldn’t be provided raw dough to play with, clean surfaces where you may have spread raw flour,” said Schultz.
All three Minnesotans who got sick — two adults and a child — have since recovered from their illness. Schultz said there was another, similar outbreak with cookie dough ice cream. Their initial thought was that the bacteria came from the eggs or a dairy product in the ice cream, but now realize it was the flour being mixed to make the dough.
You can find the products affected by the recall here.