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Dishing on Pet Food

Melissa Brookshire, DVM, has years of expertise in consumer relations issues impacting the pet food industry. Founder of North River Enterprises, Brookshire and her veterinary team provide customized consumer support solutions. She writes on timely industry topics impacting consumer relations.

Pet Food Recalls / Pet Food Safety

Is raw pet food right?

August 17, 2015

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would begin focusing on raw pet foods for potential bacterial contamination, we have seen a flurry of announcements of new pet food recalls for Salmonella and Listeria. Since July 1, there have been five pet food or treat recalls for Salmonella and two for Listeria. In this same period, there have been six human food recalls for Salmonella, one for Clostridium and one for Listeria.

Petfood Industry featured an article on August 10 discussing the pet owner’s ongoing interest with raw despite veterinary, Centers for Disease Control and FDA warnings about this method of feeding pets. Dramatic increases in the freeze-dried and raw, frozen pet food markets have been seen in the past year.

While pet owners traditionally have relied on veterinarians for guidance on what to feed their pets, it seems that they are completely bucking that tradition with this new trend. In a way this seems a bit like the grain-free revolution that we experienced. Grain-free does not seem to be going anywhere but up. Could that happen with raw, despite the ongoing scientific concerns about this method of feeding?

Is this the “It can’t happen to me” mentality showing through or some distrust of hard science or something else entirely? While pets don’t often become ill from consuming foods that contain Salmonella due to the environment within their digestive system, they certainly can become ill. More concerning is the risk to the people in the household, particularly young children or anyone with a compromised immune system. The pet food industry bears the burden of meeting the increased demand for raw products while ensuring that they are free of bacterial contaminants, which are tolerated at certain levels in raw human food that is designed to be cooked before serving. This is a real challenge to the players in the industry in the raw food space.

Pet owners that choose to buy their own raw foods and feed any combination of these foods to their pets are responsible for the outcome of this action regarding the health not only of their pets, but also of the people in the household. When they choose to take this risk, it does not fall back to a particular manufacturer to answer for any potential adverse outcome.

Raw pet food is a slippery slope the industry is standing on, and the ongoing debate between scientists, veterinarians and pet owners will be interesting to watch going forward.

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