It is part of the daily routine in millions of American homes: Feeding the family pet; tossing the puppy a treat during training; administering a prescribed pet supplement. Not quite as routine are recommended precautions to avoid serious foodborne illnesses that may result from contact with these pet products.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced a new nationwide, year-long effort to collect and analyze samples of pet products for Salmonella bacteria. FDA wants to know how prevalent Salmonella is in dry pet food, treats and supplements; the agency aims to remove contaminated products from interstate commerce.
There are several documented cases of human disease outbreaks resulting from contact with Salmonella-contaminated pet products. Between January 2006 and December 2007, for example, seventy human cases of salmonellosis were linked to Salmonella– contaminated dry dog food manufactured in the United States. Children (who love to interact with pets and may inadvertently contact feeding bowls), the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are among the most vulnerable.
Here are some tips to prevent contamination from pet products:
Purchase and Storage
- Purchase products in good condition (with no damage to packaging).
- Store dry products in a cool, dry place (under 80 °F).
- Keep pets away from household food storage and preparation areas.
- Keep pets away from garbage and household trash.
- Supervise young children around pets and keep them away from pet feeding areas.
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap before and after handling pet products.
- Use a clean, dedicated scoop or spoon to transfer pet food to feeding bowl; do not use your pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil.
- Wash pet food bowls thoroughly with hot, soapy water to clean.
- Disinfect feeding bowls periodically (see downloadable poster):
- Wash with hot soapy water to clean; thoroughly rinse off soap
- Sanitize with chlorine bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach + 1 gallon water); leave wet for 10 minutes
- Rinse and dry.
We will be interested to learn the results of FDA’s examination of pet products for bacterial contamination. Meanwhile, pet owners, heed precautions to keep your family healthy.
Linda Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council