Federal and state health investigators have released a report showing that there have been cases where humans, including infants, suffered salmonella food poisoning due to contaminated pet food.
The salmonella pet food report was published last month by the medical journal, Pediatrics, by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and researchers from several state health departments, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. The researchers looked at a salmonella outbreak that occurred in 2006 through 2008 that was tied to dry dog and cat food made by Mars Petcare’s Pennsylvania plant. Their products include Pedigree and Special Kitty.
The outbreak sickened at least 79 people in 21 states, researchers reported. Nearly half of those who fell ill (48%) were infants two years of age or younger. Investigators found that the illness spread more rapidly in households with dog contact, and they also linked feeding pets in the kitchen with an increased risk of infants developing salmonella food poisoning.
The outbreak resulted in a recall of Mars Petcare products totalling about 23,000 tons of dry pet food. CDC officials said there have been no reported incidents of humans catching salmonella from pet food since 2008. However, they warn that the outbreak highlights the importance that pet food be handled and stored properly to prevent the spread of contamination to humans, particularly children.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. For most healthy adults, symptoms of food poisoning from salmonella typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe food poisoning after ingesting the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella food poisoning can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.
This week, Proctor & Gamble Company issued a pet food recall involving specific lots of dry cat food due to a risk of potential salmonella exposure. Although no illnesses have been reported, Proctor & Gamble recalled a small number of bags of Iams Indoor Weight Control with Hairball Care dry cat food sold in 14 states. According to a recall notice posted on the FDA website, consumers were warned that people can become infected with salmonella after handling the dry pet food, especially if they do not thoroughly wash their hands after contact with surfaces exposed to the pet food.