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Scientists are calling for more awareness about the risks of raw pet food to humans



Scientists are calling for more awareness about the risks of raw pet food to humans

A study has increased evidence of the risk of contaminated raw pet food to human health.

Researchers investigated whether dog food, including raw meat-based diets (RMBD), available in Portugal, could be a source of Salmonella or other Enterobacteriaceae strains resistant to last-line antibiotics such as colistin.

Since 2020, there have been more than twenty notifications or recalls of animal feed and RMBD in the EU due to the detection of pathogens.

Fifty-five samples of 25 brands of various meat and dog foods from 12 suppliers were screened using standard culture methods between September 2019 and January 2020. Forty-one of the 55 samples were processed and 14 were raw, the published study said. in the Eurosurveillance magazine.

Promote risk awareness
Only RMBD batches were contaminated, with 10 of 14 containing multidrug-resistant (MDR) E. coli and one MDR Salmonella. One turkey-based sample was positive for MDR Salmonella serotype 1.4.[5],12:i:- sequence type 34/cgST142761, similar to human clinical isolates. This finding suggests the role of raw pet food as a potential vehicle for the transmission of this serotype, scientists said.

Six Salmonella isolates were isolated from the same sample, all identified as monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium.

Scientists discovered 59 E. coli isolates in raw frozen food samples, but none were Shiga toxin-producing E. coli. Two batches contained four colistin-resistant E. coli isolates from the same brand of animal feed. All isolates carried the mcr-1 gene.

“Our results strongly suggest that conventionally processed pet food is a safer option, highlighting the critical role of heat treatment in pet food production for effectively mitigating microbiological hazards. These findings indicate the need for proactive actions involving the pet industry, food safety agencies and pet owners to reduce public health risks,” scientists said.

“Promoting awareness of potential risks associated with RMBDs and guiding pet owners in proper handling and feeding practices are critical steps in minimizing potential health risks. Appropriate hygiene measures and safe handling practices should be observed when handling pets and raw pet foods to reduce the risk of MDR bacterial infections in humans.”

Slovenian perspective
Another study examined risk perceptions and self-reported pet food preparation practices in the home among pet owners in Slovenia who feed pets raw meat-based diets.

An online questionnaire was distributed to pet owners via social media groups in 2022, with 750 people included in the analysis. These were divided into two groups: those who provided raw meat-based diets for pets and those who did not. The findings were published in the Journal for Consumer Protection and Food Safety.

Only a third of respondents in both groups were aware of the potentially fatal consequences of food poisoning. The self-reported frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning was significantly higher in the crude group than in the conventional group.

Most respondents in the raw group reported pet health benefits as the main reason for choosing raw meat-based diets. The Internet has been the leading source of information about raw pet foods. Guidance for pet owners on the safe handling of raw meat-based pet foods is available from the European Pet Food Industry Federation.

Poor food safety practices were noted in the raw food group, with nearly half rinsing raw meat before cooking and 42 percent thawing frozen raw meat at room temperature on the counter.

“The findings of this study indicate that it is critical to raise awareness among Slovenian pet owners of the possibility of foodborne illness associated with handling raw meat and raw meat-based diets. Highlighting the benefits of appropriate food safety actions to protect pet owners and their household members can serve as an effective strategy to motivate food safety behavior, but only if pet owners are aware of the risks,” researchers said.

Working from home and selling on social media
Finally, online pet food suppliers in England who sell via social media have been warned of the importance of ensuring the products they sell are legal.

The Heart of the South West Trading Standards Service made test purchases across Somerset and Devon. All ten companies did not comply with labeling requirements. Officers tested dog treats and dog supplements; the product was incorrectly labeled each time.

Companies had not produced the pet food themselves. Eight of them had repackaged products from other companies, and in two cases the products had been manufactured for them by another company.

Trial purchases have been made in response to concerns about the increase in the number of small-scale pet food business operators moving online. In response, five companies are now registered for feed hygiene, two companies are retail and do not need to register, and two will register shortly.

Naomi Osborne, the agency’s chief agricultural officer, said: “Many of these businesses were established during or after the pandemic and we were concerned that there was a lack of awareness of the requirements and legal obligations relevant to these types of operations.

“We were particularly concerned that label claims, such as the product being ‘homemade’, ‘free from’ or ‘natural’, could not be substantiated. Companies must adhere to strict regulations and that is what we are here for: advising, supporting and intervening where necessary.”

Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for trading standards, said: “Many of these types of small businesses are not registered and as a result they are unaware of the legal and feed safety requirements when producing pet food in a highly regulated environment. industry. Accurate labeling is critical to providing transparency and ensuring pet owners can make informed choices.”

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