Your Pet’s Food Might Make You Sick…What You Need to Know
- You know this step but if you’re like me…have probably skipped it. Wash your hands or your children’s hands after you touch pet food and pet dishes. I can’t tell you how many times I have reached in the dry cat food bag for a few nibbles, given them to my cat and not thought about it.
- Clean pet food bowls and their eating area routinely.
- Avoid bathing infants in the kitchen sink and avoid cleaning pet dishes in the bathtub. This cuts down on cross contamination or bacteria from food that may stay in the bathtub or the kitchen sink and end up on the baby.
Have you noticed that food recalls have become much more frequent? Recently you may have heard about dry pet food being linked to salmonella, bacteria common in food poisoning. This particular outbreak affected about 80 people in the eastern US, 11 of whom were put in the hospital. Almost half of those who got sick were ages 2 and younger…yes…you read that right.
The children didn’t get sick from eating the dog and cat food but rather from touching it or the pet food dishes and then putting their hands in their mouths. The bacteria were cross-contaminated or transferred from the food or dish to the hands and to the mouth.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that heating during food processing typically kills salmonella germs and that contamination may have occurred during a later process where food was sprayed with flavor enhancers.
By the way, the CDC this week reported that poultry is still the leading culprit in food poisoning outbreaks. Beef and leafy vegetables were close behind.
Here’s the deal with reusable bags. Researchers tested 84 reusable bags for bacteria and found bacteria in all but one. Coliform bacteria, which is tied to raw meat or uncooked food, was detected in half of the bags with the dreaded and deadly E.coli in 12% of the tested bags.
What to do?
- Wash reusable bags regularly…toss them in the washer or hand wash if you prefer.
- Designate certain reusable bags for meat only and wash them regularly.
- Wash fruit and veggies when you bring them home BEFORE they go in the refrigerator, pantry, or fruit bowl. Remember that salmonella and other bacteria can be on the outside of your cantaloupe or kiwi and will contaminate the fruit when you cut it up.
- Keep separate reusable bags for other uses such as snacks, gym clothes, books, and shopping.
Think about this…reusable bags that are never washed are a breeding ground for bacteria. If you put raw meat and veggies in the same bag, cross contamination can occur.
Bacteria from the raw meat can get on the fruit and veggies that then take up residence in your refrigerator, fruit bowl, etc. As bacteria grow in the bags, your risk for potential food poisoning goes up.
For more ideas, listen to this week’s podcast.