It seems like it happens all the time, another pet product gets recalled for salmonella contamination. From lower quality grocery brands to ultra premium products, they all seem to recall products for salmonella contamination from time to time. Why?
The short answer: Salmonella is everywhere - nothing is truly safe. Around 10% of chickens raised for food in the USA carry Salmonella before they are even slaughtered. The bacteria can easily be spread in the slaughter house and processing facilities, raising the rates of contamination even higher. The USDA even allows for a certain level of Salmonella contamination because it is unavoidable.
People tend to worry about salmonella contamination with raw food, but dry foods are just as likely to be contaminated as raw. The cooking process may kill bacteria, but many foods are sprayed with flavor enhancers, vitamins, or other additives after cooking, and that process can spread contaminants. Put that food in a nice, slobbery pet bowl for a few hours, and you got a great breeding grounds for salmonella. Given that salmonella is all around us, here’s what you can do to limit risk associated with dog and cat foods:
1. Choose foods with organic meats & eggs. According to one study, organically raised chickens had a 4.3% incidence of salmonella, compared with a 28.8% rate in conventionally raised chickens. Frankly, feeding your pet only organic meats, although very desirable, is not easy. The number of commercially manufactured pet foods with organically raised meat is extremely small. Most organic formulas typically contain organic produce, but not organic meats because it’s is just too costly. For an organic meat based diet, try these foods:
2. Wash, wash, wash. Dogs and cats, while not immune to salmonella, are much better equipped to battle it than we are. One of the biggest risks of salmonella is that humans get infected from healthy, uninfected pets that are shedding the virus. Children and immune compromised individuals are at the biggest risk. Minimize your exposure by washing hands after handling pet food & treats, (even dry food), keep pet food bowls out of your eating area (especially if you free feed), wash food bowls after feeding, thoroughly clean food prep areas, and pick up poops right away. Click here to read more about human illness traced back to salmonella contamination in pet food.
3. Give long lasting chew treats in a cleanable area. If your dog will be gnawing on a bone, bully stick, or other meaty chew for a while, consider putting her in her crate, outside, or even in the bathtub with some towels to lay on. This prevents her from dragging a potentially contaminated chew through the house, and allows you to clean the area after the treat is finished.
So, is raw food more dangerous?
Not necessarily. As noted above, many commercially prepared raw foods use ultra high quality ingredients that are less likely to be contaminated with salmonella. More over, many manufacturers of raw food test each batch of their foods and hold them until a 3rd party laboratory confirms their safety. Some manufacturers of raw foods are treating their poultry with high pressure water, a process approved for use even on certified organic foods. It safely kills contaminants while leaving enzymes and proteins untouched. On the other hand, a home prepared raw diet made with conventionally produced meat and lax handling procedures could pose a greater risk of transmitting salmonella. My personal opinion is that with a high quality, commercially prepared raw food and proper cleaning, you and your pet may actually be safer from salmonella than with many dry foods.
Posts made after 2/1/2013 written by Kelly. Most older articles written by Cathy. She accepts sole responsibility for typos and bad grammarisms.