Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Pet Food

August 13, 2010

New research released this week reinforces the need for safe feeding practices for people with pets.

New research released this week reinforces the need for safe feeding practices for people with pets. A report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health departments in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed for the first time a link between dry pet food and salmonella food poisoning.

This particular study found 79 cases of salmonella from 21 states over a three-year period tied to tainted dog or cat food. The salmonella strain was not the typical salmonella associated with food poisoning but a different one called Salmonella Schwarzengrund.

In the United States, 37 percent of households have dogs and 32 percent have cats, and many pets are fed dry pet food, which includes animal ingredients such as liver, beef or fish. Earlier this month, Procter & Gamble, maker of Iams and Eukanuba dry dog foods, recalled certain varieties because they may be contaminated with salmonella, as well as a prescription cat food that may have been contaminated.

Also this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned U.S. and international customers who may have purchased frozen mice from MiceDirect that these products, which are used as food for reptiles, have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. On Aug. 2, 2010, the CDC reported that 34 human illnesses in 17 states were associated with handling these branded frozen rodents.

Aside from contaminated food sources, snakes and other reptiles themselves can harbor many strains of salmonella for several years, but still appear healthy. An estimated 3 percent of households in the United States own at least one reptile. An estimated 70,000 people get salmonellosis from contact with reptiles in the United States each year. 
These new reports and outbreaks reinforce the need to review safe handling practices.

Here are some safe handling guidelines to reduce the likelihood of infection from contaminated pet foods and treats:
• Purchase products in good condition, without signs of damage to the packaging, such as dents or tears.
• Wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap before and after handling pet foods and treats.
• Wash pet food bowls, dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
• Do not use the pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil; use a clean, dedicated scoop or spoon.
• Dispose of old or spoiled pet food products in a safe manner, such as in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash receptacle.
• Refrigerate promptly or discard any unused, leftover wet pet food. Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Dry products should be stored in a cool, dry place under 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
• If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid, keeping the top of the bag folded closed.
• Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.
• Keep pets away from garbage and household trash.
Reptile Care
• After touching a reptile or amphibian, do not touch your face, other people or any surface until your hands are washed. 
• Wash any surfaces that the reptile or its cage may have touched, including counters and bathtubs, with soap and hot water. 
• Separate reptiles from any contact with food or high-risk people. Don’t let reptiles roam around in the kitchen or other places where food is made or eaten. 
• Clean reptile cages outdoors if possible. Never wash the cage in the kitchen sink.