Study Finds Pet Foods Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

A government report is warning that Fido’s pet foods could be sickening children with the dangerous, sometimes deadly, <"">Salmonella pathogen. According to the Associated Press (AP), this is the first known Salmonella outbreak in humans from a pet food. To date, of the 79 people sickened about half were no older than the age of two and were for, the most part, located in 21 eastern states, said the AP.

According to the AP, Casey Barton Behravesh, the report’s lead author and a researcher at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that dry pet foods are not typically targeted as a Salmonella source in humans and that this emerging issue points to the probability that there may be more Salmonella poisoning cases that also originated in this way. Wet pet food has not been linked to Salmonella illnesses in humans, to date, noted the AP.

This year alone, at least six separate pet food recalls have been issued due to the potential of Salmonella contamination, said the AP, citing U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data. Ira Allen, a spokesman for the FDA, said no reported Salmonella sickness have been connected to pet food since the outbreak in 2006-08, said the AP. The research was published online today by the journal Pediatrics.

The 2006-08 Salmonella outbreak was blamed on a variety of dry dog and cat food brands in which Salmonella bacteria was found, said the AP. The contaminated food was produced at a Mars Petcare US plant in Pennsylvania, said the AP; the foods involved included Pedigree and Special Kitty.

Nothing indicates that the children who fell ill ate the pet food, said Behravesh. The children likely got sick by touching dirty pet bowls and then putting their hands in their mouths, reported the AP. While pets were not reported as having become ill, investigators discovered Salmonella in stool samples from pets who ate tainted food, but did not exhibit symptoms, wrote the AP. The manufacturer issued a recall and closed the processing plant in 2008 when the investigation did not turn up the contamination source; training and testing practices were enhanced at 17 other Mars plants said the regulatory director at Mars.

Salmonella can affect animals and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products. People handling contaminated pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the chews or any surfaces exposed to these recalled products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers immediately.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and can infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Heating during pet food manufacturing typically kills the Salmonella pathogen; however, Behravesh said the problem might have taken place later in the manufacturing process, wrote the AP.

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