Investigation of foodborne pathogens in petfood

The Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), in collaboration with the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and its Microbiology Cooperative Agreement Program (MCAP) laboratories, conducted a study to evaluate the prevalence of selected microbial organisms in various types of petfoods.

The goal of the blinded study was to help the Center for Veterinary Medicine prioritize potential future petfood testing efforts. The study also increased the FERN laboratories' screening capabilities for foodborne pathogens in animal feed matrices, since such pathogens may also be a significant health risk to consumers who come into contact with petfoods. Six US Food and Drug Administration FERN MCAP laboratories analyzed approximately 1,056 samples over two years. Laboratories tested for Salmonella, Listeria, Escherichia coli O157:H7 enterohemorrhagic E. coli and Shiga toxin-producing strains of E. coli (STEC). Dry and semimoist dog and cat foods purchased from local stores were tested during Phase 1. Raw dog and cat foods, exotic animal feed, and jerky-type treats purchased through the Internet were tested in Phase 2. Of the 480 dry and semimoist samples, only two tested positive: one for Salmonella and one for Listeria greyii. However, of the 576 samples analyzed during Phase 2, 66 samples were positive for Listeria (32 of those were Listeria monocytogenes) and 15 samples positive for Salmonella. These pathogens were isolated from raw foods and jerky-type treats, not the exotic animal dry feeds.

This study showed that raw petfoods may harbor food safety pathogens, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. Consumers should handle these products carefully, being mindful of the potential risks to human and animal health.

Source:  Sara M. Nemster et al., 2014. Investigation of Listeria, Salmonella, and toxigenic Escherichia coli in various petfoods. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease online, September 2014. doi: 10.1089/fpd.2014.1748.

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