Gold Medal Flour Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination



A batch of Gold Medal unbleached and bleached all-purpose flour is under recall due to the possible presence of Salmonella infantis, according to an announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The recall covers 2-, 5-, and 10-pound bags with a “better if used by” date of March 27, 2024 and March 28, 2024. The FDA asked consumers to dispose of any flour products affected by the recall.

General Mills, the company that makes Gold Medal flour, detected Salmonella during routine testing and then issued the recall. The recall is likely a precautionary to get the products off the market before someone gets sick, said James E. Rogers, PhD, director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.

Raw flour can contain dangerous bacteria that are best killed by cooking it. Consumer Reports ranked flour tenth in a recent ranking of the riskiest foods based on number of recalls. Eggs, meanwhile, didn’t make the top 10.

Why Raw Flour Is Risky

Wheat crops can be contaminated by livestock and wild animal feces in the fields. The regular milling process to turn the wheat into flour neither kills E. coli nor Salmonella.

“These bacteria survive the processing, and really, the only thing that you can do is cook your food properly,” Rogers said.

Since 2019, there have been 2 recalls or outbreaks involving raw flour and Salmonella or E. coli.

Salmonella, the bacteria found in the Gold Medal flour, commonly causes nausea, diarrhea, fever, and stomach pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms start within six hours to six days after infection and can last for a few days up to a week.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, another bacteria that commonly contaminates flour, can cause gastrointestinal symptoms. These infections can result in complications including hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening disease that can cause kidney damage and failure.

People will respond differently to these infections based on their age and pre-existing conditions. Immunocompromised, very young, and older people are most likely to get seriously sick from Salmonella or E. coli exposure.

How to Make Sure Your Flour Is Safe for Consumption

Heating flour through frying, baking, sautéing, or boiling will kill the Salmonella. Uncooked products that contain flour are often heat treated, or pasteurized, to remove contaminants before being sold.

“If you use the typical baking temperatures as recommended by your recipe along with the baking times, you should be okay,” Rogers said. “Do not allow your children to lick the bowl if you’re mixing up a cake or anything like that.”

It’s easy to consume contaminated flour even without eating raw cake batter or other uncooked foods. Because flour is so finely ground, it’s possible to inhale it when it puffs into the air while opening the bag or mixing it into a dough, for instance. It can also settle onto other food items or surfaces in your kitchen, potentially infecting those.

When using raw flour, Rogers recommends regularly cleaning countertops, cooking utensils, and your hands with warm water and soap.

“Let’s say you’re baking and you have an open salad next to your countertop, potentially the flour could get in there accidentally and you may not even see it because it’s so fine,” Rogers said. “I think that consumers need to be aware that they need to treat raw flour as a potential source of foodborne illness and cook accordingly and clean up accordingly.”

What This Means for You

The FDA said to dispose of any flour that is under recall. If you have symptoms of Salmonella infection, contact a physician for diagnosis and treatment. You can track recalls on the FDA and Department of Agriculture websites. Consumer Reports also offers a service to send recall announcements via text message.

By Claire Bugos
Claire Bugos is a health and science reporter and writer and a 2020 National Association of Science Writers travel fellow.