Pet Food Salmonella Outbreak Ongoing, CDC Says

A <"">Salmonella outbreak linked to tainted pet food is not over yet, say federal health officials.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the outbreak, which started in 2006, has sickened at least 8 more people.

As of Oct. 31, 79 cases of Salmonella Schwarzengrund had been reported in 21 states. Most of the cases involved children 2 years old and younger, the CDC said. It is  the first U.S. Salmonella outbreak tied to contaminated pet food.

The tainted  dog food has been traced to a Mars Petcare U.S. plant in Everson, PA. On Sept. 12, the company announced a recall of approximately 23,109 tons of dry dog and cat food sold under 105 brand names.  The outbreak had also prompted the company to recall its Red Flannel Large Breed Adult Formula and Krasdale Gravy Dry Dog Food in August 2007.  A third  recall of the company’s  SPECIAL KITTY® Gourmet Blend dry cat food sold, which was sold at Wal-Mart locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia, was issued late last month.

Mars Petcare closed its Pennsylvania plant for good in early October.  “Since we have not yet identified the source of the salmonella Schwarzengrund at the Everson facility, we do not plan to resume production out of a commitment to the safety of our pet owners and their pets, customers and associates,” Debra Fair, public relations manager for Mars Petcare US, said in a statement.

Despite the plant closure and recalls, the threat of more infections exists, the CDC said.  That’s because dry pet food has a one-year shelf life, and it is possible that consumers could still have products from the any of the recalls in their homes.  People should check their dry pet food to see if it was made by Mars Petcare U.S. If it was, they should check the company’s Web site to see if their food was part of the recall.

The CDC said most of the Salmonella infections related to the Mars Petcare food was the result of people feeding animals.  While no animals became sick, bacteria was found in some that ate the tainted food.  That means pets could have been shedding Salmonella around a home, providing another means of infection.

To avoid becoming sick as a result of tainted pet food, consumers should:

  • Only purchase products in good condition, without signs of damage to the packaging such as dents or tears.
  • Before and after handling pet foods and treats, wash hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap.
  • Wash pet food bowls, dishes, and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after every use.
  • Never use the pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil; always use a clean, dedicated scoop or spoon.
  • Dispose of old or spoiled pet food products in a safe manner, such as in a securely tied plastic bag within a covered trash receptacle.
  • Refrigerate the food promptly or discard any unused, leftover wet pet food.  Refrigerators should be set at 40º F.
  • Dry products should be stored in a cool, dry place in temperatures under 80º F.
  • If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated plastic container with a lid, keeping the top of the bag folded closed.
  • Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.
  • Keep pets away from garbage and household trash.

The CDC also said that small children should be kept away from pet food, because they’re more likely to get sick from small doses of Salmonella.

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