In the last few years, an increasing number of pet foods and pet treats have been recalled due to Salmonella contamination concerns, showing it is not just human food that is subject to food poisoning. In a New York Times article, a veterinarian at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that pet food contaminated with Salmonella can sicken not only pets that consume it but also humans that handle the petfood.
“The problem of Salmonella in pet foods and pet treats, even in pet supplements like vitamins, is something people should be aware of,” said Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh, a veterinary epidemiologist at the CDC. “It’s important for people to know that after they feed their pets or give them treats, they should wash their hands, particularly before they prepare food or baby bottles or before they eat.”
In 2010, the CDC reported that from 2006 to 2008, nearly 80 people, including 32 children under two, were infected with Salmonella after coming into contact with dry dog or cat food, which was also the first time dry petfood was found to be contaminated.
Dried pet food is often heated to high temperatures that kill bacteria before the product is formed into kibble shapes, though the contamination can occur at various production stages if the food is not produced under sterile conditions, veterinarians say. Wet petfood is vacuum-sealed and sterilized but can be contaminated after opening if handled and stored improperly. Pig ears and raw meat may be contaminated from the original animal carcass since these products are not cooked.
In the documented outbreaks involving humans, pets that are fed the contaminated food or treats often showed no visible signs of food poisoning, and the pet's contamination may not ever be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Symptoms of food poisoning in pets are similar to those in people, including lethargy, fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.