The Center for Veterinary Medicine, a branch of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has issued new guidelines for Salmonella contamination in pet foods.
Under the new policy guidelines, any Salmonella contamination is enough to cause a recall unless the food or ingredients that are contaminated are to be processed further – i.e., treated to kill the bacteria present. As they point out, “The FDA maintains a zero-tolerance policy for Salmonella in pet food because it can pose risks to human health when people who are “at-risk” (children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems) come into direct contact with contaminated pet food.” This policy covers dry dog foods as well as other forms of pet foods. Practicing good hygiene and washing your hands after handling pet food can minimize risk, but children, senior citizens and people with immune disease may need more protection.
The guidelines are somewhat more tolerant for Salmonella detected in horse and livestock feeds, as people are less likely to have direct contact with them. In these cases, the FDA is more concerned about certain species of Salmonella. The concern is finding Salmonella in a feed that is known to cause illness in the species the feed is intended for. An example of this would be a Salmonella species that causes illness in swine found in a pig feed.
The signs of Salmonella seen in domestic pets may range from lack of appetite to vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Similar signs may be seen in people who get Salmonella infections. More severe cases can even lead to death.
It is important to keep packaging information from your pet’s food, even if you typically store the food outside of its original packaging. This makes it easy to track if any of your pet’s food is involved in a recall.