Whole Dog Journal's Blog October 18, 2010

Risk of Salmonella: What Worries Me is Not What Worries Them

Posted at 03:16PM - Comments: (7)

I took a quick look at a list of animal-related products that were recalled in the past year due to Salmonella contamination. (I happened to be looking at the one on the website for the American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org); its list is based on information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (fda.gov/cvm)). 

Each of the following recalls was initiated due to concerns that the products “may have been potentially contaminated with Salmonella.” (Translation: A spot test revealed the presence of Salmonella, and the whole lot has to be recalled.)

  • In September, the Hartz Mountain Corporation announced a recall of one lot of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats for Dogs.
  • In August, Procter & Gamble (P&G) recalled a small number of bags from a specific lot of one of its dry cat food products (Iams Indoor Weight Control with Hairball Care). 
  • Also in August, Merrick Pet Care, Inc. recalled all lots of its Beef Filet Squares for Dogs and Texas Hold’ems pet treats.
  • In July, P&G recalled a couple of prescription renal dry cat foods , expanding the recall at one point to  include veterinary and some specialized dry pet foods.
  • July also saw a recall for one of the more “usual suspects” for Salmonella contamination: a raw diet for cats. Feline’s Pride recalled its “raw food with ground bone for cats and kittens, natural chicken formula,” made between June 10 and June 21.
  • In June (expanded in July), the United Pet Group announced a voluntary recall of nutritional supplements (and other products, including a batch of Nature’s Miracle Pet Mess Easy Clean-up). Included were products that were sold under a variety of labels, including Petco, Drs. Foster & Smith, Excel, DDS, and Pro-Pet. The products included supplements to promote joint health, urinary tract health, improved digestion, and pleasant breath. As well as multi-vitamins, ear powder, and products meant to stop stool-eating (coprophagia).
  • Also in June, Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc. announced a recall of Natural Balance Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food.

Well, I could go on and on. But here’s the thing: In each case, the news release also included something like this statement: “No Salmonella-related illnesses have been reported to date.” The language varied, but the message was the same.

I draw two conclusions from this:

1. It seems clear to me that the FDA will find Salmonella in just about every product they test that contains ingredients of animal origin.

2. The vast majority of dogs and cats must be able to resist a Salmonella infection pretty easily.

And I’m left wondering: Why is our entire animal-sourced food supply so contaminated with pathogenic bacteria?

Comments (5)

Food for thought on this article. How much salmonella do you think dogs eat when they go out and eat their own stools? Horse manure? Cat stools? Some rotten food they found that was thrown on the ground on or near their property? How much bacteria, salmonella included, do farm animals and farm pets eat and lick off of themselves? Since our cats and dogs live so close to the dirt and in one way or other are consuming it daily, it would seem useless to test foods and remove them from the market unless the contamination was excessively high; or if an animal had gotten sick from consuming the product.
I've fed my pets raw diets for the past ten years and none of us has become sick from raw meat exposure; of which there certainly has to have been salmonella present. Even if the dogs lick us soon after they've eaten their meals; or gone to lay on the leather sofa and lick their paws or rub their mouths and clean themselves. Since their stools turn to crumbly white matter which doesn't sink, we almost never pick up stools from the yard anymore. How much salmonella could be out there in our yard, tracked in on dirty paws, walked on by us; licked up by the pets when they clean their paws?
In a household where sickly / diseased / strained immune system people or pets live, I can see why it would be important to constantly clean and sanitize surfaces; and maybe even worry about what levels of salmonella are present in commercial pet foods.
HOWEVER, of more importance and what they should be spot testing is the amount of molds / aflatoxin present or growing in batches of pet food. More pets are poisoned and even killed by those than I suspect would ever be by salmonella.

Posted by: LAURA G | October 19, 2010 3:23 PM    Report this comment

As one that follows this stuff, it is more about people than dogs. Dogs do have a natural resistance to salmonela. But humans do not, and humans feed dogs. So if a human feeds the dog, fails to wash hands properly, the bacteria will easily transfer to the human skin, foods and surfaces. Our policy is wash your hands before and after handling anything pet related.

Posted by: mppets | October 19, 2010 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Hmmm...What are the statistics of Salmonella-related illnesses in raw-fed pets? Are the pets that have eaten the contaminated manufactured food "shedding" salmonella as much as vets claim the raw-fed pets are? It would be interesting to know but I imagine it would be difficult to test.

Posted by: Carol H | October 19, 2010 11:03 AM    Report this comment

Because of the source of the meat. Animals from feed lots and highly populated barns have a high number of salmonella bacteria.Naturally raised animals have been found to have a lower count of bacteria. I do agree that it is everywhere. I would think trying to iradicate it completely in pet food would not be good for cats and dogs' immune systems. They're probably exposed to it more than we know.

Posted by: Donna M | October 19, 2010 10:58 AM    Report this comment

Perhaps the animal-sourced food supply is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria because animal food producers don't take the same precautions as a 'human food' company would. They probably feel that the animal population is better able to resist infections from these pathogenic bacteria.

Posted by: Arnold C | October 19, 2010 10:52 AM    Report this comment

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