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Danville, Virginia—no one can quite figure out how a strain of E. coli, commonly found in the intestines of cows, may have gotten into a batch of Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough. Nevertheless, federal microbiologists and food safety inspectors have already launched a full scale investigation into the mystery after at least 65 people reported food borne illness symptoms after consuming raw dough. So far, all refrigerated Nestle products have been pulled from grocery store shelves to prevent further illness while investigators attempt to confirm the presence of E. coli in the dough.

Alarmingly, two-thirds of the 65 victims are under the age of 19. Health officials are particularly concerned about this outbreak because of the severe complications that can arise with food borne illnesses in children and the elderly. Nestle has reportedly cooperated fully with federal authorities and recalled all of the 300,000 cases of potentially contaminated dough within 24 hours of being notified by the FDA that there was a problem.

Investigators are still testing samples of the dough collected from the Danville, VA plant as well as dough from the victims. While there is still no solid proof that the dough contained E. coli 0157, an epidemiologist on the case says he is “100% certain” that the cookie dough is to blame for the reported illnesses since everyone who got sick reportedly ate raw Nestle cookie dough. Ironically, the risk usually associated with eating raw cookie dough is Salmonella, a type of bacteria found in raw eggs. Nestle does have a notice on their packaging warning consumers not to eat the cookie dough raw. However, raw dough has become a popular snack thanks, in part, to the popular ice cream flavor.

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