A new study by Utrecht University in the Netherlands and published in Veterinary Record— a British scholarly journal—says that raw pet foods (available in fresh, frozen and dried varieties) can be contaminated with a plethora of pathogens—Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella. The raw meat in these pet foods are a danger not only to animals but human health is at stake as well.
The human health risk is made possible during the act of touching or handling raw pet food, or even when petting animals who consume raw foods. The pathogens can also be spread when a human is licked by a pet.
After analyzing 35 store-bought products made by eight brands and containing primarily beef, chicken and lamb, researchers discovered the following:
- Listeria was present in 54 percent of the raw pet food samples
- E. coli was present in 23 percent of the raw pet food samples
- Salmonella was present in 20 percent of the raw pet food samples
Other pathogens detected included Sarcocytis Cruz, Sarcocytis tenella and Toxoplasma gondii. Some of the bacteria detected in the study were also antibiotic-resistant, which does not bode well for human health.
Despite the growing popularity of raw pet food among consumers, the study appears to debunk the myth that these pet food products— often marketed as “natural”—are somehow better than more conventional pet foods. In terms of nutritional value, the study reveals that raw pet foods tend to be “deficient in several nutrients and may, therefore, lead to serious health problems, especially in young animals that are growing.”
Researchers suggest that these raw pet food products should be affixed with labels warning consumers of the possible health risks, along with instructions for safe and proper handling.