Raw pet food trend risks E.coli and Salmonella in owners

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A recent trend in feeding pets raw meat, bones and organs in diets that are considered more "natural" by some owners, is receiving heavy criticism from experts who say these "food" sources could be unsafe for both animal and human alike, the Guardian reported.

Daniel Chan, professor of emergency and critical care medicine and clinical nutrition at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, who was not involved in the research, said the new study added to a growing body of evidence on raw meat diets for pets. Earlier analyses on raw pet food in the United States also found similar levels of contamination.

"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.

A team led by Paul Overgaauw at Utrecht University analysed 35 commercial frozen raw meat-based diets (RMBDs) from eight different brands that are widely available in Netherlands. More than half of the food had listeria species present, 20% contained salmonella and 23% had sarcocystis - a parasite that causes anorexia, nausea and abdominal pain.

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He said new PFMA guidelines set out how to handle raw meat hygienically.

A team of researchers in the Netherlands have said that the foods could be contaminated with bacteria and parasites.

"This can be through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food", he added.

To make things even more appetising, eight products contained a type of Sarcocystis parasite, and two had the mind-altering cat nasty, Toxoplasma gondii. "I think that in the USA especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".

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Commercial dry or canned pet foods are safer because the composition of the food is complete and optimally balanced in terms of nutrients, he said.

A 2013 study in Vet Med Today expressed concern over this trend, saying that despite the belief that these diets are considered healthier and more natural by pet owners, they actually have a high incidence of nutritional imbalances.

They therefore suggest that pet owners should be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs, and should be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of RMBDs.

Pet owners who are interested in raw meat-based diets should talk to a professional rather than feeding their pets uncooked meat.

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