FRIDAY, June 19, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials are warning consumers not to eat any Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough products because of the risk of E. coli contamination.
In response to the Food and Drug Administration warning, Nestlé USA said Friday that it was voluntarily recalling its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough items.
"The E. coli outbreak could be from one or a number of contaminates, such as the milk component, the machinery, even the harvested flour," said one expert in infectious disease, Dr. Philip M. Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center.
"Whether eaten or handled (causing cross-contamination), the dough is a danger, especially to the elderly, anyone with a suppressed immune system or pregnant women and should be discarded," he said.
Since March there have been 66 reports of illness in 28 states, the agency said. Twenty-five people have been hospitalized, seven with a severe complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney damage and even death. There have been no deaths, the FDA said.
The FDA is advising consumers to toss out any refrigerated Nestlé Toll House cookie dough products they have in their homes. The agency also says not to cook the dough because E. coli bacteria could get on your hands and cooking surfaces, leading to cross-contamination.
Retailers, restaurateurs, and other food-service operations should not sell or serve any Nestlé Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, the agency added.
The recall includes refrigerated cookie and brownie dough bar, cookie dough tub, cookie dough tubes, seasonal cookie and brownie dough, and Ultimates cookie bar dough. It does not include any other Toll House products, the company said in a news release.
Nestlé spokeswoman Roz O'Hearn said "this has been a very quickly moving situation," adding that the company took action less than 24 hours after hearing of the problem.
O'Hearn said the company will "cooperate fully" with the FDA's investigation, the Associated Press reported.
E. coli. can cause abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults recover within a week. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, the FDA said.
For more on E. coli, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.