Friday, 17 August, 2018

Raw meat pet foods 'may carry deadly bugs', experts warn

Raw meat pet foods 'may carry deadly bugs', experts warn Raw meat pet foods 'may carry deadly bugs', experts warn
Melissa Porter | 13 January, 2018, 06:01

Researchers in the Netherlands have analysed a range of raw meat-based diet products and concluded that the risks of contamination are super-high, even if the pet owners swear by the virtues of such a diet.

To see what microorganisms might be lurking in the food, they tested 35 products containing different types of raw meat and meat by-products, including chicken, beef, lamb, duck, rabbit, horse and turkey.

The team points out that the relatively small sample size doesn't allow for a calculation of the precise risks involved if you buy your cat or dog raw meat-based products.

Previous year a charitable scheme which sends dogs into schools to help children read, Burns By Your Side, announced it had banned the use of animals fed on raw meats because of the health risk to children.

Pet owners and other household members can come into contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in several ways, including direct contact with the food or with an infected pet, through contact with contaminated household surfaces, or by eating cross-contaminated human food. Humans may also be exposed to harmful pathogens when cleaning up an infected animal's waste or when an infected animal licks its owner's face or hands.

Raw meat-based pet-food diets (sometimes referred to as RMBDs) have become increasingly popular around the world, the study authors wrote in their paper.

Traditional fare Henry prepares to tuck into canned dog food in the 1970s advertisement alongside Clement Freud
Traditional fare Henry prepares to tuck into canned dog food in the 1970s advertisement alongside Clement Freud Credit BBC

It found that E. coli was present in eight products (23 per cent), Listeria species were found in 15 products (43 per cent) and Salmonella species in seven products (20 per cent).

However, the researchers say their study shows no evidence that raw meat diets are healthier for pets. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly risky strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples.

"Feeding of freshly prepared, non-frozen raw meat based-diets to companion animals cannot only result in infection and disease in the animals, but also poses a risk to public health and livestock farming through shedding of pathogens into the environment", the researchers conclude.

If you're planning to do the switch, keep in mind, that some pets develop gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhoea, when changing to a raw meat-based diet. Lastly, researchers found two products (six per cent) with Taxoplasma gondii.

Caroline Kisko, the organisation's secretary, said: "We would recommend that dog owners speak to their vet about which option might be best for their individual dog, particularly if they have concerns over a product".

"It is important to encourage awareness of the possible risks associated with feeding RMBDs to companion animals, and pet owners should be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of RMBDs", the study said.