The Food and Drug Administration announced last week it would conduct a nationwide, year-long assessment of pet food to determine the prevalence of salmonella in the products, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The government agency wrote in a release: “FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine is concerned about animal feeds serving as vehicles for transmitting pathogenic and antibiotic-resistant bacteria to humans and other animals, and is particularly concerned about salmonella being transmitted to humans through pet foods, pet treats and supplements for pets that are intended to be fed to animals in homes, where they are likely to be directly handled or ingested by humans.”
But before jumping to the conclusion that Americans are eating their pets’ food, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that it’s also possible to become sick from touching contaminated food then touching one’s mouth.
In its announcement, the FDA pointed to a CDC study that found 70 people became sick from pet food-related salmonella between January 2006 and December 2007.
Each year, about 40,000 cases of salmonella are reported in the U.S., but experts said the number of actual cases is much higher. Mild cases of salmonella poisoning are often underreported. Symptoms, which include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping, usually last five to seven days, but it can take months for bowels to get back to normal, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Salmonellosis is particularly dangerous to infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
The government agency will test dog and cat food, along with feed for rodents, reptiles, fish and birds. Testing samples will be collected from major retail and wholesale pet food companies, including, but not limited to, PetCo, PetSmart, Walmart and Target.
The CDC noted that washing hands after handling pet food is the best way to prevent salmonella transmission and poisoning. If possible, pet owners should feed their pets outside the kitchen area and wash pet food bowls and dishes with hot water and soap regularly.