RECALL: Merrick’s Doggie Wishbone Contaminated with Salmonella

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This has been an ugly week in Food Safety Land. There was a major train wreck over in Human Food Safety Land: the third largest recall in US history of 36 million pounds of ground turkey contaminated with, here’s a shocker – Salmonella. I can’t even imagine what 36 million pounds of dead turkey meat looks like. Poor turkeys, they just died for nothing.

I guess the folks over in Human Food Safety Land aren’t any better at preventing train wrecks either. As Susan Thixton so wisely asked Petsumers, just where in heck do you think all that crappy turkey will end up? Why, the no-good-so-and-sos over in Human Food Land are probably gonna ship it right on over to our little corner of the world – Pet Food Land.

I Bet Doggie Wishes He Hadn’t Eaten the Doggie Wishbone

Meanwhile, another recall — this time in Pet Food Land — Doggie Wishbones by Merrick. If you catch your dog nommin on one of those Merrick treats you bought him, why you’d better run on over and take it out of his mouth pronto, because it’s probably contaminated with Salmonella. The FDA sent out a recall notice yesterday about Merrick’s Doggie Wishbones. It could be a really dangerous strain of  Salmonella  — or not. We don’t know.

What I do know is, you’d better wash your hands after touching those treats or any other dog treat or food for that matter. Since the industry doesn’t regularly test for Salmonella or other bacterial creepies that illegally migrated from Microbiology World to Food Safety Land,  it’s safest to assume that there could a host of any number of nasty, ickies on pet food and treats.

Salmonella: Not Good

I’m pretty sure I’ve gone into this subject at length, but just in case you missed that earth shattering news report, it bears repeating. Actually, since I’m not feeling too chipper today, I’m just going to cut & paste the comment I made on Susan’s website, Truth About Pet Food, about this very same issue yesterday in her article Turkey Recall and Pet Food:

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Comment on TAPF

I’ve been watching this turkey meat recall like a hawk — wait a sec — I mean like a buzzard circlin’  roadkill.

Couple of thoughts – now, not being the expert on all things microbiological like the Phyllis Entis, AKA the Food Bug Lady,  I understand that most Salmonella contamination in cooked pet food is caused by cross-contamination. Contamination most likely occurs post extrusion, either with contaminated equipment or contaminated flavor-enhancers (yuck!). There are supposed to critical check points along the way to prevent this from happening. Ever heard of HACCP? Well, they ain’t doin it right.

Pacific Sun, you brought up a second interesting point – is it dangerous for humans? You betcha. Especially for children under the age of five who crawl on the floor next to doggie’s or kitty’s bowl. Kids are notorious for playing with their food, not just their own, but doggie’s & kitty’s as well. They also – gasp! – have been known to put it in their mouth and – horrors!- even eat it! The elderly are vulnerable too but, it’s been a while since I spied Grandpappy on the floor nommin the cat’s food.

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The CVM is so concerned about this issue that they are looking into the matter very closely: three weeks ago they announced “a funding opportunity for cooperative agreements to further enhance the Center’s ability to evaluate potential risks of Salmonella-contaminated feeds on human and animal health by testing diagnostic samples from pets.The prevalence of Salmonella in fecal samples from both symptomatic and asymptomatic dogs and cats brought to veterinary clinics in order to gain further insight into the frequency of Salmonella infected animals following feed contamination.”

The CVM wants to determine “if the Salmonella strains isolated from pets are genetically similar to the strains previously isolated from humans or animal feeds.”

The study “will help CVM prioritize our investigations of foodborne diseases which adversely affect both animal and human health”.

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I don’t know what they expect to find, cause I ain’t no microbiologist, but the conclusion will certainly include the well-worn advice to tell consumers to not to feed their pets in the kitchen, not to let their kids play with the food (duh), take the food up when the pet is finished, wash their hands after touching their food, treats, dirty dishes, and after cleaning up barf or feces (another duh).

I think it’s worth repeating that animals can carry Salmonella asymptomatically but still shed the microbe in their feces. Yech.

Regarding Marler Clark’s threat to Cargill which, I think was absolutely brilliant, I commented on Food Safety News:

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday a high-powered attorney, such as Bill Marler, could use his power and influence to convince pet food and animal feed manufacturers to make similar food safety changes?

But, until the laws that place the value of companion animals and farm animals higher than the price that was paid for them, that day will never materialize.

It is shortsighted to place the strength of a nation’s food system based largely on the quality and safety of products manufactured and sold for human consumption.”

The last part I didn’t make clear: It is my belief that we place as much emphasis on human food safety as we do on animal feed safety. Call me crazy but, if you eat animals (I don’t, but my cats do), I’d want to make darn sure they weren’t sick or tanked up on drugs and God knows what else.”

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Finally, She’s Done!

I know, I know, it’s a heckuva long post but, but Jeepers, there are so many angles to the problems in Food Safety Land, it just wears me out thinking about all of them.

Personally, it is beyond me how Susan Thixton, and the others who toil away in Food Safety Land,  remain so dedicated to doing the work for so many years, despite the frustrating lack of progress our government has made to protect consumers, companion animal and farm animals. All I can say is,  bless their cotton-pickin’ hearts.

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Mollie Morrissette

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

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