This Holiday Season, Think Twice Before Tasting the Cookie Dough

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iStock

Making festive cookies—and licking the bowl—is a time-honored holiday tradition. But while you likely know that raw eggs carry a potential Salmonella risk, it isn't safe to sneak bites of batter even if you opt to use another binding agent. As The New York Times reports, uncooked flour can make at-home chefs ill, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Authors investigated an E. coli outbreak in late 2015 and 2016 that caused 63 cases of illness in 24 states, and ultimately led to the recall of more than 10 million pounds of General Mills flour and dozens of products that contained the ingredient. They concluded that strains of E. coli bacteria can live in raw flour (in addition to moist food like hamburger meat and produce), and might be more of a widespread health hazard than researchers had previously realized.

"Linking this outbreak to flour was challenging," the report says, according to CNN. "Consumption of raw or undercooked flour is not included on most routine state and national foodborne disease questionnaires, so epidemiologists were not initially able to assess whether case patients had consumed raw flour."

Public health officials ended up having to conduct in-depth interviews with 10 afflicted individuals to identify flour as the culprit ingredient, according to Science News. Sure enough, two of them recalled eating raw cookie dough right before falling ill. Two bags of flour used to make the treats were traced back to the same production plant, and a subsequent analysis located strains of E. coli.

E. coli can stay dormant in flour for months, but re-activates when it's added to eggs, oil, and water. Bakers can avoid infection by heat-treating raw flour, washing their hands with hot water and soap after handling it, or (sorry) by simply not giving into temptation and sneaking a bite of batter mid-baking session.

[h/t The New York Times]

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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The Clever Reason Oranges Are Sold in Red Mesh Bags

Gingagi/iStock via Getty Images
Gingagi/iStock via Getty Images

If a detail in a food's packaging doesn't seem to serve a practical purpose, it's likely a marketing tactic. One example is the classic mesh bag of oranges seen in supermarket produce sections. When oranges aren't sold loose on the shelf, they almost always come in these red, mesh bags. The packaging may seem plain, but according to Reader's Digest, it's specially designed to make shoppers want to buy the product.

The color orange "pops" when paired with the color red more so than it does with yellow, green, or blue. That means when you see a bunch of oranges behind a red net pattern, your brain assumes they're more "orange" (and therefore fresher and higher quality) than it would if you saw them on their own. That's the same reason red is chosen when making bags for fruits like grapefruits or tangerines, which are also orange in color.

For lemon packaging, green is more commonly chosen to make the yellow rind stand out. If lemons were sold in the same red bags as other citrus, the red and yellow hues together would actually make the fruits appear orange. Lemons can also come in yellow mesh bags, and the bags for limes are usually green to match their color.

Next time you visit the supermarket, see if you can spot the many ways the store is set up to influence your buying decisions. The items at eye-level will likely be more expensive than those on the shelves above and below them, and the products near the register will likely be cheaper and more appealing as impulse buys. Check out more sneaky tricks used by grocery stores here.

[h/t Reader's Digest]