Food giant General Mills is recalling millions of pounds of flour milled in Kansas City, Missouri, on suspicions that the product is contaminated by a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria.
Thirty-eight people in 20 states have been infected in the outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ten have been hospitalized.
An ongoing investigation by local, state and federal health authorities determined that General Mills' facility in northeast Kansas City is a likely source of this outbreak. The recalled flour was primarily produced at that facility, the company says.
E. coli is a common bacteria but can be killed by adequate cooking. Many of those taken ill reported having eaten raw flour – found in cookie dough, for instance.
Flour, made from wheat, is a raw agricultural commodity and may come in contact with animals and the bacteria they carry. That means it must be treated with the care of other raw products, said Dr. Fadi Aramouni, a professor of food science at Kansas State University.
"Do not consume raw dough," Aramouni said. "I mean, you don't have to be scared from consuming breads, or baked goods, or cakes, or donuts, or whatever, as long as it's cooked."
General Mills says the recall includes flour sold under three separate brand names: Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour. A list of the affected UPC codes can be found on the company's website.
General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas said the investigation is ongoing. So far, the E. coli strain hasn't been found in any General Mills products or facilities, he said.