The U.S., multistate outbreak of human salmonella infections caused by dry dog food in 2006 to 2007 is a reminder that the basic principles of food safety also apply to handling pet food. This is something that I suspect does not occur to most people especially with respect to dry food which, it seems, never goes off and looks like an inert material and unlike food.
In the outbreak referred to, there were 79 human cases of salmonella poisoning across 21 states and 48% of the patients were aged 2 years or younger. The largest number of reported cases was in Pennsylvania (29 cases). The manufacturer of the dry cat food was based in Pennsylvania and supplied the food to a number of businesses across various states. They were based at Everson I recall and the manufacturer as Mars Petcare US. The factory was shut down, I believe.
The average age of the people who got salmonella was 3. Almost 4 in 10 of the patients were under one year of age. About a quarter of them had to be hospitalised but no deaths were reported. This was serious stuff.
This well-known case of salmonella poisoning is notable by the fact that very young people were affected which indicates to me that a lot of young people in homes are handling dry pet food without regard for the fact that it is actually food and needs to be handled properly.
Clearly, there needs to be some input from parents on this and after handling pet foods pet owners should wash their hands immediately. Infants should be kept away from pets feeding areas. The implication is that infants are handling pet food while not feeding a cat or dog but simply playing with it. That is my interpretation. Infants may even be inclined to eat it or put it in their mouth.
Of course, both dogs and cats can also contract salmonella infections through contaminated pet food But it seems that serious illness in children would seem to be an additional and important concern.
The experts say that if you are a pet owner, one of the most important things you can do is to wash your hands in order to keep yourself safe from foodborne illness. Hands should be washed before and after handling pet foods. Ideally, hand washing should be done thoroughly which means 20 seconds in hot running water using soap.
Hands should also be washed after possible contact with faeces. I’m sure that everybody who visits the site washes their hands thoroughly after doing the cat litter even if there has been no apparent contact.
It also goes without saying to wash hands before preparing human food and before eating. This may sound a bit tough or strict but experts say that infants and children should never be allowed to touch pet food.
How tough are you with regard to infants and dry cat and dog food?