Funky eggs, expired chicken, spoiled half and half, dented canned goods—these are the foodborne illness risks that keep me up at night. But I’ve always found my flour stash to be a safe place, save the massive pantry moth infestation that nearly ruined my life last summer. Unfortunately, it turns out that flour is actually one of the top ten foods that are “frequently associated with food poisoning or foodborne illness,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This sucks!
The bad news comes courtesy of Eat This, Not That!, which linked to a recent India Times story about 400 people who were hospitalized after consuming buckwheat or buckwheat flour. The Times reported that hundreds of people in Delhi all reported symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting after consuming buckwheat, a popular offering during some Indian religious festivals. Authorities believe the buckwheat had been adulterated to artificially increase its supply at some point during the milling or packaging process.
This isn’t a new concern; the CDC also cited two separate E. coli outbreaks in 2016 and 2019, both of which stemmed from contaminated flour. “Flour is typically a raw agricultural product that hasn’t been treated to kill germs,” the CDC writes. “Bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked. That’s why you should never taste raw dough or batter.”
Finally, if, like me, you’ve had a mysterious bag of novelty flour in your pantry for years, the CDC suggests re-checking your product labels. “Flour and baking mixes that contain flour have long shelf lives, so it’s a good idea to check your pantry to see if you have any flour or baking mixes that have been recalled in recent years,” the agency advises. “If you have any recalled flour or baking mixes, throw them away.” Alas, it may be time to say goodbye to the five-year-old bag of almond flour currently hanging out behind my canned goods.