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Remember Remember the 5th of November – For Donuts!

Posted in Food Safety,Listeria,Outbreaks & Recalls on November 5, 2018

Glazed, sugared, filled, with sprinkles, and every creative variety imaginable.  Doughnuts, while they are a dentist’s dream, are a guilty pleasure for many.  What better way to celebrate than National Donut Day!  As if you needed a reason.  November 5th marks the second National Donut Day this year.  Yes, you heard that right.  We get not just one, but two of these awesome indulgent days.

We’ve got a National Spaghetti Day (January 4th), National Fresh Squeezed Juice Day (January 15th), National Cake Pops Day (February 1st), National Frog Legs Day (February 29th), National World Whiskey Day (March 27th), and many more.  In a society where we look for reasons to celebrate, it is no surprise we have a day dedicated to celebrating doughnuts.  But where did National Doughnut Day come from, and why do we have two?

A Patriotic History

The original National Doughnut Day celebrated on the first Friday in June originated during World War I.  During this time volunteers who wanted to support troops would prepare and deliver food the front-line soldiers in France.  The Salvation Army dispatched over 250 women there for that purpose.  It was here that inspiration struck.  An unknown hero discovered that battle-tested, metal helmets were perfect for frying up doughnuts.  Seven doughnuts at a time in fact, making them a great cooking receptacle.

The “doughnut lassies” were celebrated in 1938 by the Salvation Army to honor them, as well as to raise awareness and money for their charitable efforts.  It was upon this proclamation that Nation Doughnut Day was born.

We’ve got a fairly documented reason for the June holiday.  But where did the November 5th holiday come from?  Acclaimed food holiday historian, John Bryan Hopkins of has cataloged food holidays since 2006. The Ladies Home Journal from 1930 documents the earliest instance of November 5th as National Donut Day.  He speculates that the November 5th date was a retail homage to linking the Doughnut Day with Veterans day.  Any day that celebrates doughnuts AND veterans has got to be a good day.

Innocent Disease Vectors

If you are familiar with this page and/or you have read the title of this article, you know that I’m about to give you some information you may or may not like but definitely need.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, sometimes it is fatal.  Here at MakeFoodSafe we want to arm you with all of the information you might need to make informed food decisions.  With respect to doughnuts, that starts right here.

By virtue of how a doughnut is handled AFTER it is cooked makes it more susceptible to foodborne illness.  Why?  Well…  While the hot oil used to fry said dough is hot enough to kill any germs or pathogens that might be lingering in the batter or dough, it is essentially in a ready-to-eat state after that.  But it doesn’t go directly from the fryer to the plate, now does it?

Some would consider it blasphemy to eat a naked doughnut.  Though what you do in the privacy of your own kitchen is your business.  No.  Most Americans want their doughnuts dressed.  Even if with only a simple glaze.  Sprinkles are nice.  How about filled with jelly or icing or pudding.  Mmmmm….


How exactly does all that take place?  It generally involves someone picking it up and decorating it.  This is where mistakes can happen.  Dire mistakes that result in foodborne illness.  The more people handle a food product, the more opportunities it has for contamination.

Most foodborne illness is transferred fecal to oral.  Poop contaminates food, to put it in a somewhat politer way.  More specifically contaminated by poop infected with a pathogen.  Unfortunately, those with contaminated poop are more likely to contaminate other things and it only takes a microscopic amount to cause illness.  It could be in any product, regardless of the color.  So, don’t look more sideways at the chocolate filled doughnut than the strawberry filled one.

With all that manipulation to dress up the doughnut to make it pretty, any of them have an elevated risk for contamination.  But that’s not the only problem you may encounter at the pastry counter.

Latex Reaction from a Doughnut?

While more rare, other problems could result from employees using precautions to prevent contamination.  For example, one medical case study indicated a 10-year-old boy had an anaphylactic reaction after ingesting a cream-filled doughnut that was prepared through use of latex gloves that consequently contaminated the food product with latex proteins.

In this case, the child presented with angioedema, urticaria, lip and tongue edema, cough, dyspnea, thoracic pain, and low blood pressure.  The child had consumed cream-filled doughnuts before without adverse reaction.  While the child did not belong to a latex allergy risk group such as rhinitis, asthma, or food allergy he did have 2 previous episodes of allergic reaction caused by latex gloves worn by a dentist and then inflating a latex glove with his mouth.

Those with a severe latex allergy may be at risk for allergic reaction if food handlers wear latex gloves instead of vinyl or nitrile gloves.  The amount of handling of a doughnut that needs decorating requires may transfer those offending proteins onto the food.

So, Now I Can’t Eat Doughnuts?

You might be thinking, “Great!  Now I can’t eat doughnuts!”  While part of a moderate diet is to limit sugars that you might find in excess in a doughnut, we aren’t saying to be weary of all doughnuts.  With that logic, one would never be able to eat food they did not prepare themselves.  And even then, you might still be susceptible to foodborne illness if a ready-to-eat food is purchased already containing a pathogen.

No.  We aren’t saying to avoid doughnuts.  Or lettuce, crackers, cereal.  Or whatever the more recent foodborne scare is.  Of course, if there is a current recall or an outbreak you should always be vigilant there.  But listen to your body and keep a mental note of all the food you eat so that if you do become ill, you will be able to help pinpoint the culprit.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

The tell-tale symptoms of foodborne illness usually fall back on the usual suspects. abdominal pain, stomach cramps, multiple bouts of diarrhea or vomiting.  If you have an upset stomach, bloating and/or gas without vomiting or diarrhea, chances are you have indigestion, not an infection.

People assume the food item that made them sick was consumed right before they experienced symptoms.  That generally is not the case.  Different pathogens present symptoms after a period of time called an incubation period depending on the nature of the pathogen.

While Staphylococcus aureus might present severe nausea and vomiting just an hour after consuming it due to the production of toxins, E. coli in a burger could take more than a week to build up enough to become symptomatic.  Some bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes can take a month or more for fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms to display.

Listen to your body.  Treat the symptoms.  Get yourself tested so that you can contribute to the data that could prompt outbreak intervention.  And enjoy that doughnut.  It is probably ok.

If you needed another reason to celebrate donut day, January 12th marks National Glazed Donut Day and September 14th marks National Cream-Filled Donut Day!

By: Heather Van Tassell, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)