We know to wash our hands before eating dinner and after using the bathroom, but what about after handling pet food?
You’re running late again, and just as you head for the door, you remember Fido still needs his breakfast. After serving him a hearty scoop of kibble, you’re in the car and on the freeway, and along for the ride may be the foodborne bacteria Salmonella.
Many of us often eat food from cows, pigs, and chickens. Our pets do too because meat, poultry, and eggs are common ingredients in pet food and pet treats.
Salmonella bacteria live in the intestines of animals, including cows, pigs, and chickens. Meat, poultry, and egg products can be contaminated with Salmonella during processing or handling. When you, your family, or your pets touch or eat raw, undercooked, or improperly processed meat, poultry, and egg products, there is the potential for foodborne illness caused by Salmonella.
There are several ways you can avoid getting sick from Salmonella:
- Wash your hands after touching raw meat and poultry and after handling eggs and egg products.
- Wash your hands after touching pet food and pet treats.
- In the kitchen, clean surfaces often and keep raw food separate from other food.
- Refrigerate food promptly.
- Cook all food to proper temperatures. FoodSafety.gov has a chart of the safe minimum cooking temperatures for various foods, along with other great tips on how to keep your food safe.
The foodborne illness caused by Salmonella is called salmonellosis. Symptoms in people include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. The diarrhea can become severe. The illness may be life-threatening in some groups, such as children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Symptoms of salmonellosis in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, decreased appetite, and decreased activity. Typically, young animals are most susceptible.
Most pet food and pet treats are processed and handled properly so they’re Salmonella free and safe for your pet to eat and for you to touch. But sometimes, pet food and pet treats become contaminated with Salmonella and you won’t know by looking at the food. If you touch contaminated pet food or treats, you may become ill from Salmonella or pass the bacteria on to other people.
Washing your hands with warm, soapy water after handling pet food is the best way to reduce your risk of foodborne illness from contaminated pet food. Washing your hands is also the best way to reduce your risk of passing foodborne illness on to others. So please take time to wash your hands after feeding Fido, even on rushed weekday mornings.
For more information about Salmonella and salmonellosis:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For more information about pet food and pet food safety: