To eat or not to eat...
January 20, 2007 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Will squirrel spit kill me?

The good news: My beloved grandma sent me a package of the special cookies she only makes at Christmastime once every couple of years. I love these cookies.

The bad news: While the package was sitting on my stoop, the squirrels ripped into the package and chewed open the plastic bag the cookies were in. I am unsure whether the squirrels ate any of the cookies or not, as some of them are in pieces, but I don't know if that's an effect of squirrel-tampering or of shipping.

Misc. information: It is freezing cold here. The cookies, liebkuchen, are both very hard and very spicy. I doubt the squirrels cared for them. There was also an orange in the package to keep the cookies fresh, but the squirrels don't appear to have touched it.

The question: So... if I eat the cookies, will I regret it? Only the whole ones? Am I likely to die of rabies, ebola, black plague...? For bonus points, I'm a nursing mom, does this change the risk profile any?
posted by Andrhia to Pets & Animals (27 answers total)
 
my wife the former midwife says "have her husband try them first!"..

other than that, I've got nothing, but to commend you for the first post her that has made me roll on the floor in months!

personally, I would say, call grandma, have her send another batch...
posted by HuronBob at 6:23 PM on January 20, 2007


Wait, oranges keep cookies fresh?
posted by jeffxl at 6:27 PM on January 20, 2007


HuronBob: Well, another batch isn't an option, sadly. The recipe is only made every couple of years because it starts "take five pounds of sugar, five pounds of flour..."

jeffxl: Yes, or a crust of bread will. It kind of balances out the humidity profile of the air they're packed together in.
posted by Andrhia at 6:40 PM on January 20, 2007


For goodness sake. Pitch the cookies. Write grandma a thank you note. You must be kidding to think of eating them.
posted by JayRwv at 7:10 PM on January 20, 2007


Rabies is transmitted through saliva, FWIW.
posted by wierdo at 7:18 PM on January 20, 2007


Hmmm... rabies or tasty goodness. This is a tough call.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:30 PM on January 20, 2007


I say to eat 'em, but that I've eaten food that squirrels have bit on (while camping and hungry) and not died doesn't mean that you won't get some kinda brain fever and keel over.
posted by klangklangston at 7:45 PM on January 20, 2007


I don't know if squirrel spit is deadly or not. But even if it was conclusively proven that it is not deadly, I still wouldn't recommend eating those cookies.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:55 PM on January 20, 2007


If it's rabies that's worrying you, I had the impression that you'd have to be bitten -- non-bite transmission being pretty rare (even assuming the squirrels had it).

For my part, I have many times shared milkshakes and malteds with squirrels without ill effect; of course, I have always provided them with separate straws, but that is more a matter of being polite than anything.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:59 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, how did I guess liebkuchen/lebkuchen when I read the first paragraph? It's definitely the only Christmas cookie I know (as a German) that would make people consider rabies as a viable option.

Having said that: Lebkuchen isn't that good. Drop the cookies in the garbage can, mope a bit, write grandma a thank-you note, and see if you can find a German specialty store to at least satiate your lust a little.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:37 PM on January 20, 2007


You probably thought you were joking, but in many parts of the USA, squirrels are asymptomatic carriers of Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for, yes, the Black Plague.

Toss your cookies.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:41 PM on January 20, 2007 [3 favorites]


Squirrels, and other small rodents, don't carry rabies. It's squirrel urine that might actually squick you out, since rodents tend (at least I know mice do) to pee all the time and so it's possible that they peed on your cookies. However, they probably didn't and my guess is that they're fine. Dump the ones closest to the torn packaging and eat the rest without worries.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:44 PM on January 20, 2007


According to Orkin:
"From mice and rats to ground squirrels and prairie dogs, rodents are known to transmit diseases by biting humans and contaminating food sources or other surfaces. They also carry fleas or mites, which further spread disease..." Since apparently they can spread disease from their fleas & urine, and you don't know where those cookies have been... I'd toss 'em & go buy some oreos.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:44 PM on January 20, 2007


Take some cookies from the top of the package, put them outside, see if they touch or eat them?
posted by stereo at 9:54 PM on January 20, 2007


If you ever handled a squirrel, even if you didn't touch their saliva, would you still wash your hands before you ate something?
posted by stresstwig at 10:08 PM on January 20, 2007




What is it with squirrels and cookies? I had a squirrel bite me once after I fed it a cookie -- it finished the first one and lunged at the bag in my hand holding the rest while I walked away. The doc said squirrels didn't carry rabies in my area, but YMMV. Definitely don't eat them.
posted by greatgefilte at 10:24 PM on January 20, 2007


This is why you have an immune system. Eat the cookies.

But...

If you decide not to eat them, drop them in the mail and I will!
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:22 AM on January 21, 2007


You're a nursing mom. It does change the risk profile, considerably.

Write Grandma a thank you note, toss the orange and the cookies, and enjoy your baby.
posted by paulsc at 12:58 AM on January 21, 2007


You're a nursing mom - you'd risk killing yourself AND your kid? Or, what doesn't hurt you might hurt the kid... you'd risk losing your child?

Simply the fact that you're nursing makes the answer a resounding NO, don't eat them.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:59 AM on January 21, 2007


mygothlaundry: Squirrels, and other small rodents, don't carry rabies.

Your link specifically says:

1. Q: What animals get rabies?

A: Any mammal can get rabies.


Am I missing something?
posted by cactus at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2007


I vote trash them. How hard would it be for your family to re-bake the cookies? My guess is not that hard. Trash them and have them re-sent.
posted by delmoi at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2007


cactus: #3 says
"3. Q: What is the risk of rabies from squirrels, mice, rats, and other rodents?

A: Small rodents (such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and chipmunks, ) and lagomorphs (such as rabbits and hares) are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States."

However, to the OP: You're a nursing mother, and you're actually considering eating something an animal handled? I'm a non-nursing non-mother, and I won't eat something my cats have licked, let alone a wild animal has touched.
posted by jesirose at 4:21 PM on January 21, 2007


I admit that all the risk averse postings have a point. I'd assumed the OP said she was a nursing mother only to indicate that she had a suitable taster at her disposal.

FWIW, however, all the dire warnings make their own assumption. Re-read all the ugly comments about the plague and squirrel pee and so forth and ask yourselves: won't you be embarrassed if you find out the OP is herself a squirrel?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:09 PM on January 21, 2007


I refuse to believe this is a serious question.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:42 PM on January 21, 2007


I find it a bit laughable that people are spastic about a vegetarian mammal touching your food.

Would you advise her to eat pork?

Would you advise her to eat spinach or broccoli or chicken, beef, or food from McDonalds, or any other commercially produced foodstuff?

What about cleaning her house with anything other than simple green?

Seriously, based on the toxicity of every-day items, and the horrible things that are done to produce every-day food items, I think a cookie that was touched by a squirrel ranks low on the list.

We're not talking cannibalistic rats or mice here, it's a flipping squirrel.

I'd personally toss the squirrel nibbled ones and enjoy the rest, probably with a huge glass of hormone-filled, non-organic $2/gallon milk.
posted by TomMelee at 8:08 AM on January 22, 2007


Well, if you're wondering, I ate two of the whole liebkuchens from the far side of the package and got rid of the rest before temptation could strike again. I'm weak. :)

Rabies specifically isn't a high risk, I think there was 1 rabid squirrel found in my county last year. But on thinking about it, I'm not sure how long the package was sitting there open, and it could've been contaminated by birds or particularly hardy insects.

It's a funny thing, risk. The likelihood of anything bad happening if I ate every cookie is admittedly very, very low, but the stakes are high enough and the reward low enough that it just isn't worth it, I guess. Even for cookies that require a week and a meat grinder to make properly. :)
posted by Andrhia at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2007


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