Pet owners beware! Disease-causing bacteria has been found in most commercially available raw-meat dog food
Manufacturers markets these products as natural and healthy. They claim that dogs become active, with benefits to the digestive tract and the immune system - a claim not backed by science
Pet owners watch out: if you have been feeding your pets a raw meat based-diet, you are putting them and yourself at the risk of infection. In a new study, researchers found high levels of disease-causing bacteria and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in several commercially available raw-meat food products.
Most manufacturers market them as natural and healthy products, claiming that dogs become active, with benefits to the digestive tract and the immune system. However, the claim is not backed by science.
"Because dogs’ and cats’ wild ancestors ate raw meat almost exclusively, pet owners often believe their animals will benefit from such a diet," the study’s lead author, Magdalena Nüesch-Inderbinen, a microbiologist at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Food Safety and Hygiene in Switzerland told Science.
But as raw meat products are not pasteurized, they increase the risk of infections in both pets and humans. These should be a cause of concern for pet owners in US and Canada too as regulations on pet food manufacturers are not as stringent as in Europe.
The fact that raw meat-based food products are unsafe is not new. Earlier studies have investigated and found that they cause infections. When researchers from Sweden, analyzed 60 frozen packs of raw dog food from 10 different manufacturers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and the UK, they saw that 31 packs contained levels of bacteria that exceeded the limits prescribed by the European Union (EU).
In this study, the research team from Switzerland tested commercial products: 51 different raw-meat pet meals, sourced from eight different suppliers from Switzerland and Germany. They looked for harmful pathogens such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Shigella, along with other harmless bacteria.
The raw meat -- from either beef, chicken, horse or lamb -- had excessive levels of bacteria, nearly 72.5 percent of them failed EU's hygiene standards. Additionally, they found that 63 percent of the samples had strains that were resistant to antibiotics. With over 3.9 percent of the samples contaning Salomnella, a bacterial strain that is known to cause diarrhoea in humans and pets, the study said that it violates the zero-tolerance policy laid out by the EU.
Acknowledging the risks that raw meat food poses, Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, an industry group that represents most of the largest US pet food manufacturers, told Science, “These bacteria may present a safety risk to your entire family, especially for vulnerable loved ones, such as children or the elderly.
The study stresses that pet owners must be aware of the dangers. "Appropriate measures, such as activities that raise the awareness of antimicrobial resistance from the pet food, safety perspective and providing information on the correct handling of raw-meet based products, should be established in order to reduce the risk and ensure animal and public health," said the study.
The study was published in The Royal Society.