The FDA sent a warning letter to Answers Pet Food on March 17, 2016, warning them that their product was contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Detailed Answers Chicken, 8 ounce raw chicken patties, were contaminated with Salmonella Enteritidis, and Detailed Answers Chicken Formula, 2 pounder, was contaminated with Salmonella Kentucky.
In that letter, FDA states that their concerns with Salmonella-contaminated pet foods include health of pets and health of people. The letter states, “it is more common to have human illnesses linked to contaminated pet food or treats than it is to have an animal illness. The association between human outbreaks of salmonellosis and Salmonella-contaminated pet foods is well established by the CDC.”
Salmonella in pet products can sick people in three ways. First, direct contact with the contaminated food can make people sick. Second, animals can carry the bacteria but not show any symptoms. These animals can shed the pathogenic bacteria in their feces, which can get on their coats. When a person pets the animal or handles feces and doesn’t wash their hands before eating or touching their face, they can ingest the bacteria. Finally, utensils used to serve or feed the pet food can become contaminated with bacteria.
The FDA conducted a study in 2012 about the risks of contaminated pet food and human illness. They found that raw pet food is especially risky, with 15 of 196 samples tested positive for Salmonella bacteria, and 32 samples positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Over a period from 2006 to 2008, 79 people were sickened with Salmonella Schwarzengrund in dry dog food. And in 2012, there was a Salmonella outbreak linked to dry dog food that sickened 14 people and hospitalized five.
In 2013, the FDA issued a Compliance Policy Guide addressing the presence of Salmonella in Food for Animals. Animal food is adulterated when it is contaminated with a Salmonella serotype that is considered pathogenic and that food is not further treated with heat.
In addition to the contamination, Answers Pet Food posted information on its website that was inaccurate. The site mentions that cultured whey and montmorillonite, both food additives, control “harmful bacteria.” That is “beyond their intended use” according to the FDA.
Pet owners should be aware that the pet foods they buy can be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. We have often posted recalls of pet foods for pathogen contamination. Treat pet foods as if they are contaminated. Wash your hands after handling any pet food, whether it’s frozen raw, dry, or canned. Wash your hands after touching your pet and before eating. And be aware of pet food recalls we post.