The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cautioning pet owners not to feed their dogs a batch Aunt Jeni’s Home Made frozen raw pet food after a sample collected from a store in the District of Columbia tested positive for Salmonella Infantis – a multidrug-resistant strain that will leave veterinarians with few options to treat pets with severe infections should they become ill.
The FDA took the unusual step of issuing the warning because the agency believed the batch of raw food represents a serious threat to human and animal health, and the manufacturer didn’t.
Aunt Jeni’s took the ill-considered step of refusing – flat out – to cooperate with the agency or even acknowledge that Aunt Jeni’s Home Made Turkey Dinner Dog Food was indeed contaminated with Salmonella Infantis.
“No one has reported any problems resulting from the use or handling of this or any other of our products. We do not believe there is any cause for concern or any need to dispose of or stop using any of our products. THERE IS NO RECALL ON OUR FOOD” the company said in a statement.
Instead, the company complains of being violated – persecuted in fact – by the FDA; that the agency’s lack of acceptance of the ubiquity of Salmonella in raw meat is due to a “blatant violation” by the FDA:
“…laughable lack of science, the pitiful lack of common sense, the appalling lack of ability to follow their very own protocols, the frustrating lack of ability or willingness to answer our questions, and the blatant violation of our rights per their own regulations.”
The company is advising consumers to ignore the warning letter, and should instead be “collectively rolling our eyes.” Aunt Jeni’s unwisely tells consumers that if they’ve already fed the contaminated food to their dogs, and the dog seems fine, the “FDA must be wrong about this.”
Asking consumers to ignore the dangers of pathogenic bacteria in their raw pet food is not only foolish but irresponsible, which further establishes a pattern refusing to acknowledge problems related to their pet food: The FDA had to issue a similar public health advisory in August 2019, after one lot each of two varieties of Aunt Jeni’s frozen raw pet food tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes after the company refused to recall the pet food.
ADVICE TO CONSUMERS
Anyone with the affected Aunt Jeni’s product is urged to stop feeding it to pets – obviously – and throw it away, and sanitize any surface that may have come in contact with the food. Not only can your dog get salmonellosis from eating the contaminated pet food, but you can get sick as well from contact with feces from an infected pet – including touching your pet or their surroundings.
Unfortunately, despite your best efforts to decontaminate your environment (which, as you probably have guessed, is not only impractical, but impossible), you and your pet can get infected with Salmonella Infantis without getting sick or showing any symptoms, but you both may still spread the infections to others.
So, there goes Aunt Jeni’s theory out the window.
And because your pet can shed Salmonella Infantis in its poop, it’s essential to clean up your pet’s poop in yards or parks where people or other animals may become exposed. Because – guess what – they can get sick too. Therefore, good fecal handling practices and attention to hand hygiene can help further reduce the risk.
The incidence of salmonellosis in pets is unknown, possibly because it is rare. However, it is likely that infections occur, at least sporadically, and are undiagnosed. But, should it occur, salmonellosis can be life-threatening in compromised dogs and humans. Although the prevalence of Salmonella shedding tends to be low in healthy adult dogs, higher rates can be found in some subpopulations, particularly dogs fed raw meat-based diets or treats.
ADVICE TO MANUFACTURERS
Raw pet food manufacturers need to realize there is an inherent problem with raw meat and poultry – it has shit in it.
“It’s not whether or not people are going to eat shit — they are. It’s just how much,” one meat inspector said about the USDA Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points Inspection Models Project, according to documents released by the Government Accountability Project.
Raw pet food should be understood in the context that the U.S. meat and poultry supply is filthy. There’s a “simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill,” wrote Eric Schlosser in Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal in 2001, “There is shit in the meat.”
To put it more politely, given the many bacterial pathogens (especially Salmonella spp.) that are commonly present in raw meat, Aunt Jeni’s would be wise to acknowledge it. Instead of whining about how unfair the laws are, pet food manufacturers, like Aunt Jeni’s, need to follow the fundamental application of correct processing practices at their manufacturing facility in order to prevent the spreading of Salmonella in home kitchens and limit dangerous episodes of infection.
Aunt Jeni’s refusal to recall the contaminated pet food is disgraceful when it is our most vulnerable – pets as well as people – that are at the highest risk for infection. It is the old, the young, the pregnant, and the sick that are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.
But Aunt Jeni’s feels it’s up to you whether you want to take that risk. They ask, “shouldn’t it be up to you whether you want to take whatever “risk” is involved in selecting your own pets’ food?”
Well, frankly, no.
It isn’t up to the manufacturer to ask a consumer whether they would like shit in their food or not. It’s shit (or in this case, Salmonella Infantis), and it shouldn’t be there.
WHERE TO REPORT PROBLEMS
If you think you have symptoms of Salmonella, consult your health care provider. People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network if the pet is from a household with a person infected.
Consumers can report illnesses associated with pet food in two ways: (1) call the FDA Consumer Complaint CoordinatorExternal in their state, or (2) report electronically through the Safety Reporting PortalExternal. Reports should include product details such as brand name, production code (Example: BDR0105E2XJW), expiration date (Example: Best by 3-APRIL-2013), manufacturer or distributor, and location of purchase. Reports also should include medical information.