WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- It's raw, it's gooey and it's so good. Not only are Americans getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar, they're also sneaking uncooked dough as a treat.
And that might not be so healthy.
According to a survey conducted by TNS Worldwide and National Pasteurized Eggs, 400 of 1,000 Americans admitted to eating uncooked homemade cookie dough. The survey also found that 72 percent of Americans know that such a snack can make them sick due to raw eggs in the batter.
"I think we were surprised at the number of people who eat it even though they know it can make them sick," said Susan Stoga, spokeswoman for Davidson's Pasteurized eggs, a brand of National Pasteurized Eggs.
The trend seems particularly prevalent in the Midwest, where 46 percent of respondents admitted to eating raw cookie dough. Also, 54 percent of the cookie-dough eaters were under 30.
"No matter who you are, if you're eating a raw or undercooked egg, you run the risk of getting sick," said Greg West, president of Davidson's.
Prepackaged cookie-dough products generally do not pose a similar threat -- they are manufactured with liquid, pasteurized eggs vs. shelled eggs used in home recipes.
But other favorites like eggs Benedict or over-easy need to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees for 15 seconds or they, too, can cause illness.
More than 60 million Americans consume eggs and are at risk for Salmonella infections; children under 10, pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Salmonella sickens 1.4 million people annually.
The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 2.3 million contaminated eggs were sold in 2004. And despite efforts by the Food and Drug Administration, egg producers and the United States Dairy Association, the number of Salmonella outbreaks has not declined in five years.
But some consumers are beginning to put their concern over food-borne Salmonella into action. Davidson's, which pasteurizes its eggs through a patented process in an all-natural water bath, now operates in 30 states, up from just nine last year.
The 3-year-old company also does business with 47 food-service and distribution companies. "It's just started to take off this year," said West. "We eliminate the risk of Salmonella."
Davidson's shelled eggs comply with the Model Food Code, which calls for serving only pasteurized eggs to at-risk groups including hospital and nursing-home patients. It costs about 3 cents to pasteurize each egg through this process.