A scoop of raw dog or cat food may also come with a serving of pathogens, posing potential risk to both pets and their human caretakers. Reported in the September issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, the research investigated samples of raw dog and cat foods, exotic animal food, and jerky-type treats for presence of food safety pathogens.
Phase 1 of the trial tested 480 dry and semi-moist dog and cat foods purchased at local stores; one tested positive for Salmonella and one for Listeria greyii. In phase 2 of the trial, researchers tested 576 samples of raw dog and cat foods, exotic animal feed, and jerky-type treats purchased through the Internet. Fifteen of the raw food samples tested positive for Salmonella; 32 were positive for L. monocytogenes; 34 samples that included raw food products and jerky-type treats were positive for other Listeria species; and 10 samples were positive for non-0157 STECS. The researchers note that their study is the first report of L. monocytogenes contamination of commercial pet foods.
“Owners who decide to feed these products should take strict precautions to avoid infection by thoroughly washing hands and disinfecting all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet foods,” the researchers advise, noting that Salmonella infections in people have occurred from handling contaminated pet foods and pet treats. They said other research shows that “antibiotic-resistant E. coli can easily spread between humans and their pets.” The study was a collaborative study by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network and the Emergency Response Network and its Microbiology Cooperative Agreement Program.
“The Food Safety Modernization Act not only imposed additional regulations on the food industry but also focused attention on the animal feed industry. Pet food manufacturers place greater emphasis on environmental monitoring programs and verifying the practices of their raw material suppliers,” says Benjamin Pascal, chief business officer at Invisible Sentinel, Inc., a Philadelphia-based company that has developed molecular flow-based technology for the rapid detection of target analytes from complex environmental samples.
Manufacturers are using molecular diagnostics as part of a pathogen-control program that allows them to get results faster and with more confidence in the accuracy of the results, but molecular diagnostics can be an expensive investment for some processors, Mr. Pascal says. Invisible Sentinel has developed a solution that can reduce costs, minimize the sample preparation, improve accuracy, and produce faster results, he says. Its Veriflow tool can test all types of food, including pet food, and is AOAC for Salmonella and Listeria.