A measuring cup full of flour.

Update: On November 1, King Arthur Flour said that its supplier ADM Milling Company provided it with additional lot codes involved in this recall. For 5-pound bags of unbleached all purpose flour with a "best if used by" date of 12/09/19, lot codes L18A09A and L18A09C. For bags with a "best if used by" date of 01/08/20, lot code A19A08A. 

Update: On October 3, King Arthur Flour announced it was expanding the recall of its unbleached all-purpose flour to include 5-pound bags with various "best if used by dates" of 12/04/19 through 01/15/20 (for specific dates and lot (UPC) code numbers, click here.) Twenty-five-pound bags of the flour sold at Costco with the UPC code 071012012503 are also affected by this recall. Those best if used by dates span from 12/04/19 to 1/15/20. 

Two major food brands have recalled flour in connection with an ongoing outbreak of E.coli. Last week King Arthur Flour recalled 14,218 cases of 5-pound bags of its unbleached all-purpose flour. The products were shipped to stores nationwide.

And Hometown Food Company, the parent company of Pillsbury baking products, recalled approximately 4,620 cases of 5-pound bags of Pillsbury Best Bread Flour, which were distributed to stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently investigating an outbreak of E. coli O26 related to flour. Seventeen people in eight states have been sickened, and three have been hospitalized.

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There are no reports of illnesses connected to the King Arthur or Pillsbury flours. Both companies say they were alerted by a supplier, ADM Milling Co., that the wheat used in the recalled products has been linked to the ongoing E. coli outbreak.

Two people reported eating raw dough or batter made with flour or baking mixes from the supermarket chain Aldi, which recalled 5-pound bags of its Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour in late May.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating which other brands may be involved in the outbreak.  

The recalled King Arthur bags are marked with one of three “best used by” dates and one of six lot codes:

• A best used by date of 12/07/19 and lot code L18A07C

• A best used by date of 12/08/19 and lot code L18A08A or L18A08B

• Or a best used by date of 12/14/19 and lot code of L18A14A, L18A14B, or L18A14C

The recalled Pillsbury bags are marked with the following UPC and lot codes, and “best used by” dates:

• A best used by date of June 8, 2020, a UPC code of 0 5150020031 5, and a lot code of 8 342

• A best used by date of June 9, 2020, a UPC code of 0 5150020031 5, and a lot code of 8 343

Check the bottom of the side panel, below the Nutrition Facts box, to find the "best used by" date, the companies advise. If you have one of the affected products, don’t use it. Return it to the store where you purchased it, or throw it away.

Two images of the labels of the recalled flour.
Photo: King Arthur

No King Arthur products sold online are involved in the recall, nor are any products sold through its Baker's Catalogue; Baker's Store in Norwich, Vt.; or its baking school in Burlington, Wash. Any remaining King Arthur products in the recall have been pulled from grocery store shelves, according to a spokeswoman for the company, Gwen Adams, but consumers could still have the products in their homes.

The press release from Hometown Food Company didn't specify whether the recalled Pillsbury flour might still be on store shelves. Earlier this year, Hometown Food recalled 5-pound bags of unbleached all-purpose flour because of potential contamination with salmonella. CR reached out to the company for more information but hasn’t heard back.

How E. Coli Gets Into Flour

E. coli contamination in flour often begins when the wheat used to make it is tainted with animal waste while in the field, says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.

“Consumers should resist the temptation to eat raw dough or batter,” Rogers says. Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness can lurk in both uncooked flour and raw eggs. And don’t let kids make homemade play dough with raw flour, either.

“When it comes time to cook, make sure to cook food thoroughly,” Rogers says, because cooking will kill the bacteria. And carefully clean any prep areas, dishes, and utensils used in cooking. Wipe raw flour off countertops, and wash dishes with warm, soapy water or run them through a hot dishwasher cycle.

The Details

Products recalled: 5-pound bags of King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour. Products have a best used by date of 12/07/19 and lot code L18A07C; a best used by date of 12/08/19 and lot code L18A08A or L18A08B; or a best used by date of 12/14/19 and lot code of L18A14A, L18A14B, or L18A14C.

The problem: The flour may be contaminated with E. coli.

The fix: Check any unbleached all-purpose flour from King Arthur or Best Bread Flour from Pillsbury you have at home for the dates and lot codes listed above. If you have any of it at home, throw it out. Before buying new flour, check to make sure it isn’t labeled with the above codes.

How to contact the manufacturer: The King Arthur Flour consumer hotline is at 866-797-9178. The Hometown Food Company consumer hotline is at 866-219-9333.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include information about the Pillsbury Best Bread flour recall. 

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The kitchen is one of the busiest hubs in the house, but it also harbors hidden dangers. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports' experts explain how you can stay safe from E. coli and other contaminants.