Compared to other types of pet food, raw pet food is more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.
Salmonella bacteria cause the disease salmonellosis, and L. monocytogenes bacteria cause the disease listeriosis. People and animals can get both diseases by eating food contaminated with the harmful bacteria. That’s why salmonellosis and listeriosis are called “foodborne” illnesses — the bacteria are carried, or “borne,” in or on contaminated food.
People can also get both salmonellosis and listeriosis by handling contaminated food, such as contaminated raw pet food, or touching contaminated surfaces and utensils and accidentally transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths.
Some animals can carry Salmonella and L. monocytogenes without showing signs of being sick. Some animals, such as amphibians, reptiles, cattle and chickens, can have Salmonella in their bodies or in their habitats. After handling a live animal or touching an object in its habitat, people can get salmonellosis by accidentally transferring the bacteria from their hands to their mouths.
Food products made from animals, such as raw meat and poultry, can be sources of Salmonella and L. monocytogenes infection.
Symptoms of salmonellosis in people include fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and stomach pain. Symptoms start 12 hours to three days after a person ingests the bacteria.
Most people recover from salmonellosis in four to seven days without treatment, but some groups are at higher risk of developing more severe symptoms.
These high-risk groups are:
- Children under five
- The elderly
- Pregnant women
- People with weakened immune systems (such as those with cancer or other diseases)
Compared to salmonellosis and other foodborne illnesses, listeriosis is rare but very serious with a high mortality rate of 20% to 30%.
L. monocytogenes can invade many places in the body, including the brain, membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (called the meninges), digestive tract (the stomach and intestines) and bloodstream. Symptoms vary depending on the body site, or sites, affected.
Listeriosis occurs almost exclusively in:
- Pregnant women and their fetuses
- The elderly
- People with weakened immune systems (such as those with cancer or other diseases) Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and life-threatening infection of the newborn. Newborns suffer the most serious consequences of listeriosis, including pneumonia or respiratory distress, a blood infection and meningitis.
TIPS TO PREVENT INFECTION
To prevent infecting yourself or other people in your household with Salmonella and L. monocytogenes, it’s best if you don’t feed your pet a raw diet.
If you choose to feed raw pet food to your pet, here are some tips to prevent infection:
- Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. First wash with hot soapy water and then follow with a disinfectant. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.
- Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.
- Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don’t rinse raw meat, poultry, fish and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.
- Keep raw food separate from other food.
- Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn’t eat, or throw the leftovers out safely. • If you’re using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella, L. monocytogenes and other harmful foodborne bacteria.
- Don’t kiss your pet around its mouth, and don’t let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.
- Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a “kiss,” be sure to also wash your face. No matter what type of pet food you feed your pet, you should always follow these the safe handling instructions below.
TIPS FOR SAFE HANDLING OF PET FOOD AND TREATS
Pet food and treats, like many other types of food, can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as salmonellosis and listeriosis. Pet owners should be mindful of the potential risks. You can lower your risk of getting a foodborne illness from contaminated pet food and treats by following these simple and safe handling instructions:
Tips for Buying Pet Food
Buy pet food products (cans, pouches or bags) that are in good condition. Check the packaging for visible signs of damage, such as dents, tears and discolorations.
Tips for Preparing Pet Food
- Begin and end with clean hands. Both before and after handling pet food and treats, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.
- Wash pet food bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
- Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean scoop, spoon or cup instead. Use the scooping utensil only for scooping pet food.
- Throw out old or spoiled pet food in a safe way, for example, by placing it in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash can.
Tips for Storing Pet Food
- Promptly refrigerate or throw out unused or leftover canned and pouched pet food. Tightly cover refrigerated pet food.
- Store dry pet food in a cool and dry place.
- Store dry pet food in its original bag and keep the top of the bag tightly folded down.
- Keep pet food in a secure location to prevent your pet from eating an entire supply at once.
RAW PET FOOD FDA
thinks that raw pet food poses significant health risks to pets and pet owners. Because raw pet food is more likely than other types of pet food to contain Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, the single best thing you can do to prevent infection with these foodborne bacteria is to not feed your pet a raw diet. However, we understand that some people prefer to feed raw pet food diets to their pets. If you choose to feed raw pet food, you should be aware of the risks.
From the U.S. Food and Drug Administration www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary