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Is it possible to safely handle contaminated pet food in the home? The FDA wants you to try (VIDEO)

Unsettling Assumptions

An unsettling video released today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center’s for Veterinary Medicine cautions consumers of the health dangers associated with pet food: foodborne illness and disease.

The most troubling aspect of the message is that they are warning consumers to assume that all pet food is probably contaminated and should be handled accordingly: With the same caution as the raw meat and poultry the USDA has determined is more than likely contaminated.

Better Safe Than Sick

The video brings to light how you might avoid becoming ill if you follow some basic, common-sense food safety guidelines. And what steps to take should you suspect a pet food has adversely affected you or your pet.

little girl feeding dog food kibble bacteria

Worms & All Sorts of Germs

As with human food, pet food can be contaminated with a number of foodborne bacteria. For example, Salmonella are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of animals to people or other animals and back again.  The bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of infected animals and humans. Strains that cause no symptoms in animals can make people sick, and vice versa.

Practice Good Great Hygiene

When a pet food is contaminated with a foodborne disease it should be reported to the FDA and then, hopefully, recalled by the FDA.  But just in case the contaminated pet food slipped through their tightly knit safety net, the FDA suggests you follow your mother’s advice and wash your hands.  And for Heaven’s sake, if you have a toddler who likes playing with kitty’s or doggy’s food, wash their hands lest they become infected with Salmonella or E. coli as well.

Seriously Scary Pet Food

Salmonella infections can be life-threatening especially for infants and young children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and older adults, as are people who are immune compromised. Salmonella infection, causes more hospitalizations and deaths than any other type of germ found in food.

Swallowing Poop

What about E. Coli? Escherichia coli O157:H7 and other Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) live in the guts of ruminant animals, including cattle, goats, sheep, deer, and elk. The major source for human illnesses is cattle. Infections start when you swallow STEC—in other words, when you get tiny (usually invisible) amounts of human or animal feces in your mouth. Unfortunately, this happens more often than we would like to think about. Exposures that result in illness, in this case, is the consumption of contaminated pet food.

It Should be Shitty in the First Place

What I really want to know is how bacteria from poop came to be in pet food? What might have been an illuminating exploration into the reasons why pet food becomes contaminated with poopy bacteria, and what steps the FDA takes to prevent it from happening, the video instead focuses on what consumers can do to protect themselves from foodborne bacteria in pet food. And what steps consumers should take if they suspect they or their pet has become ill as a result contaminated pet food.

Since we know that our system of industrialized food production is not likely to change any time in the near future I think we can expect to see reports continue of food infected with bacteria. Despite this depressing knowledge, we can depend on the FDA to dole out some good, old-fashioned home-spun advice and remind us to do what mother told you to do: wash your hands!

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (8) Write a comment

  1. I clicked on the video, and it says “This video does not exist”. Do you have a link to what channel it was posted on? TY

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  2. Pingback: Third time’s the charm? Diamond Pet Foods recalls more dry dog food made at its troubled South Carolina plant « Poisoned Pets

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  4. I will make the homemade dog food for my three dogs, because they are like babies and older people, THEY ARE THE INNOCENT AND HELPLESS, I need some sights for different homemade trats and dog food. I WILL TAKE THE TIME to make my dogs healthier.

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  5. Although I am glad they are clearly admitting that Pet Foods have a potential for harmful bacteria etc, which when you think of what goes into and comes out of the the rendering plants, makes perfect sense,it infuriates me that they are so inconsistently *concerned!

    Usually they only mention or dwell on bacteria when someone talks about feeding raw and they play down how much is in the Commercial Pet Foods.

    They mention “reviewing every complaint” !!!! So, in view of that admission, then, they are more than aware that there is something wrong with the Jerky treats. So, are they just “ignoring” the mountain of complaints which by their own admission get *reviewed?

    This information/tape from them etc, seems to me to more about FDA PR than anything else. Pet foods may have a hire risk of contamination than human foods, but that is only because the inspections of Pet Foods and the facilities and requirements for processing are way less than those for human consumption, so higher counts of bacteria are caught more often.

    The FDA allows a certain percentage of bacteria contaminated foods to pass through. (something around 23% last I knew), so this seems to me to be them covering their butts for what gets past them, in a lame attempt to make themselves look like they are doing a better job then they are.. Just my dollars worth!

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  6. Sorry, but I just think it’s so wrong to have to be concerned about touching the food that you give your pet to EAT! Unfortunately, not everyone has the budget or time to make their pet homemade safe food. The comment by “Lettuce” is right – pet food safety should not be the consumers responsibility. If pet food is deemed unsafe it should not be sold. If prices have to go up, so be it. If you can’t afford a pet, don’t have one – spread your love of animals by fostering (many programs supply food) or volunteering at a shelter. And Treats? – don’t get me started. It’s just unbelievable that these luxury items (treats are not a necessity) have been harming our pets! PLEASE!… do a Google search for “American Made Pet Treats” to find a variety of safe treats for your pet. Please don’t by anything made in China… very scary how our beloved pets are suffering from bad products.

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  7. Thanks again for being on top of the FDA’s B.S. division.

    Re: the FDA video. Again it is putting the responsibility onto the consumer for the pet food or treat that is contaminated with something that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Now the consumer has to worry about something that slipped by the FDA’s “tightly knit safety net”. Such as the 1 or 2% that they are able to check out of all that’s about to hit the public. The video is a Cover My A**, so we don’t get sued…A “plausible deniability in case something goes wrong”.

    Reality check; it is nearly impossible to touch your pet without getting some degree of slobbered-on pet food onto yourself. And pet food with kids: forget-about-it. Although I suppose that washing your hands and dishes can’t hurt.

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