Dry Pet Food Linked to Salmonella Infection In Both Pets and Kids

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Recently, several varieties of dry dog and cat food from Proctor & Gamble have been recalled due to potential Salmonella contamination. Obviously, you take steps to protect your pet, but did you know that the food also has the potential to infect humans, especially young children?


Salmonella Outbreak Sickens Young Children

Dr. Casey Barton Behravesh and colleagues at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention evaluated a 2006-2008 Salmonella outbreak that sickened 79 American patients across 21 states, about half of them 2 years or older. The researchers tracked the infection to household use of dry cat and dog food.

Dr. O. Alton Barron, an attending physician at New York's Roosevelt Hospital, explained on "The Early Show" that dry food was contaminated because after it was heated to eliminate salmonella and other organisms, it was sprayed it with food flavoring to make it more palatable to pets. Salmonella can survive for extended periods in dry pet foods, which have a longer shelf life and sell-by dates.

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People handling dry pet food can become infected with Samonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to the contaminated food. Feeding pets in the kitchen quadrupled the risk of illness. Dr. Timothy Pfanner, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M Health Science Center (not involved in the study) commented that bacteria may either multiply on the floor of the kitchen or people do not properly clean and disinfect their pet’s food and water dishes.

Children are at a greater risk for developing severe illness related to Salmonella infection because of their immature immune systems. Other groups at high risk are the elderly and those with chronic health conditions that weaken the immune system. Symptoms of Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever.

Pets with Salmonella infections may have decreased appetite, fever, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, pets may be lethargic and have diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans.

This latest research re-emphasizes the importance of washing hands whenever you handle a pet or an object in their environment, including food. Families should also keep pet foods out of reach of children.

"This is a small section of total cases of Salmonella, but it's important because so many of our kids are on the floor all the time," said Pfanner.

Source reference:
Behravesh CB et al. "Human salmonella infections linked to contaminated dry dog and cat food, 2006-2008" Pediatrics 2010; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-3273.

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