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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Nestle had planned to go with Cooked Flour after E. coli Outbreak

Last week within minutes of Nestle’s press release announcing E. coli O157:H7 positives in samples of finished cookie dough (that did not leave its plant), I posted “Nestle to use heat-treated flour – moves to become industry leader in product safety.” Today, Marion Nestle (no relationship) shot my an email with the article from Food Production Daily, “Nestle USA heat-treated flour switch planned for months.”

The company told FoodProductionDaily.com that proposals to change its flour had been underway since late summer 2009 – around the same time as it re-started production at its Virginia plant following a nationwide recall of its raw cookie dough. …

The firm (Nestle) said it had not confirmed that its current flour was responsible for the E. coli H7:O157-tainted sample results either last week or last year but that it had made the switch on precautionary safety grounds.

In a post last week, I complemented Nestle for announcing that it “will [now] begin using heat-treated flour in the manufacture of its Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough,” shows its desire to lead the industry by making one of its key ingredients (flour) safer for human consumption. It still does, however, raise some interesting issues that Nestle will need to respond to:

1. What did Nestle (and the entire flour industry) know about the risk that uncooked flour can be contaminated with a pathogen?

2. What testing protocols did Nestle use on cookie dough ingredients after June 2009 and what were the test results?

3. When did Nestle make the decision to consider heat-treated flour? (I guess they answered this one to Food Production).

4. With respect to the two samples of Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, were those sample (including PFGE analysis) provided to the FDA and CDC?

I wonder if Nestle will stop saying this too:

As an important reminder, Nestle strongly advises that cookie dough should not be eaten raw, and to bake our products before consuming.