Flour refers to a powder we get from grinding raw grains such as wheat for human consumption. While it might seem like a modern commodity, flour has existed since as early as 6000 BC. Flour has many uses, especially in the kitchen, since it functions as the main ingredient in baking bread, cakes, and pastry.
The flour we commonly use at home is directly derived from raw grains. While you may feel comfortable tasting or eating raw flour, it is not as inconsequential as you would assume. The processing sequence of turning grain into flour does not eliminate harmful bacteria.
Dangerous bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella can contaminate grain while in the field or during the flour production process. You can only kill the bacteria in flour with extreme heat during cooking or baking. As such, if you eat flour raw, you risk introducing these disease-causing organisms into your system.
Can you eat raw flour? No, you will want to avoid eating raw flour, dough, or batter since it could contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning and make you sick. Children and older persons are at a higher risk of danger from these germs.
What Happens When You Eat Raw Flour?
When you eat raw flour, you could ingest bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella, which can cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. Most individuals recover within a few days to a week.
The CDC has linked up to 80 E. coli infection outbreaks to eating raw flour. E. coli infection from consuming raw flour can result in various food poisoning symptoms. Sickness will typically set in about three days after ingesting the bacteria.
While the symptoms may differ among individuals, they usually include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps. Most individuals recover from these symptoms within a week. Nevertheless, the infection could lead to the development of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe illness that can cause kidney failure, stroke, and even death.
Another type of bacteria that can contaminate raw flour is Salmonella. The signs of infection from these bacteria usually appear between 1-6 days after exposure. The symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever.
The illness lasts from 4-7 days in most cases, and people can recover without antibiotics. This bacteria is more dangerous to immunodeficient individuals, adults of 65 years and older, and infants
How to Make Raw Flour Safe to Eat?
Exposing raw flour to high temperatures can kill the disease-causing organisms that contaminate it. As such, you can get rid of bacteria from raw flour and make it safe to eat using heat treatment in an oven or microwave.
The microwave heat treatment involves placing the flour in a bowl and microwaving it on the high setting in 30-second intervals. Stir well in between each interval to prevent the flour from burning. Ensure that every part of the flour reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When that happens, remove your flour and let it rest and cool before consuming it.
For the oven method, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and spread the raw flour onto the baking pan or a suitable container with sides. Then stir the flour while checking the temperature at intervals of two minutes until it is evenly heated. Be sure to check the flour’s temperature at different spots on the pan to be safe.
Once you’re done, let the flour cool for about 30 minutes or place it in the fridge to cool it faster. With that, you have your heat-treated, bacteria-free edible flour.
Is Bleached Flour Safe to Eat Raw?
The many types of flour available for consumption can fit into two main categories; bleached and unbleached. Bleached flour differs from unbleached in various ways, especially in processing. The grain used to make bleached flour is stripped of the kernel’s bran and germ to make it more refined. It is also treated using chemical agents such as benzoyl peroxide or chlorine to expedite the aging process.
During processing, bleached flour loses various amounts of fiber, vitamin E, copper, manganese, and antioxidants. This makes bleached flour a slightly less nutritious option compared to unbleached flour. Also, the bleaching agents used to age flour cannot remove bacteria or other pathogens. So, any disease-causing organisms the wheat picks up in the field can survive the grinding and bleaching and still end up in your bowl.
So, is bleached flour safe to eat raw? No, raw, bleached flour can harbor harmful bacteria just as easily as unbleached flour. Eating it could lead to bacterial infections with severe symptoms that will cause extreme discomfort.
- Wheat grains can pick up bacteria from the fields where they grow. These bacteria can survive the process of grinding wheat into flour.
- It is risky to eat raw flour because it could contain disease-causing bacteria that can cause illness and food poisoning.
- When you eat raw flour, you can take in bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, which can put your health at risk. A bacterial infection could lead to severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea, stomach cramping, and fever.
- While these symptoms can pass within a week for most people, they can escalate to a life-threatening degree in various individuals. Infants, older adults, and immunodeficient persons are at the highest risk of illness from these bacteria.
- Heat treatment of raw flour using a microwave or an oven is an effective means of making it safe to eat. The high temperatures will kill any bacteria in the flour and reduce the risk of illness.
- Bleached flour is not any safer for raw consumption. The bleaching process does not kill or affect the bacteria that contaminate flour. Heat treatment is the safest bet when you want to eat bleached or unbleached flour.