Scientists criticise trend for raw meat pet food after analysis finds pathogens

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Scientists criticise trend for raw meat pet food after analysis finds pathogens

A recent trend in feeding pets raw meat, bones and organs in diets that are considered more "natural" by some owners, is receiving heavy criticism from experts who say these "food" sources could be unsafe for both animal and human alike, the Guardian reported.

In fact, when researchers tested 35 commercial frozen foods from eight different brands in the Netherlands, eight products (23 per cent) were found to have E. coli present, 15 had Listeria (43 per cent) and seven products had salmonella (20 per cent).

Eight products contained Sarcocystes parasites and two products (6 percent) contained Toxoplasma gondii parasites.

"Despite the relatively low sample size of frozen products in our study, it is clear that commercial RMBDs may be contaminated with a variety of zoonotic bacterial and parasitic pathogens that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings", researchers said.

T. gondii can cause disease in people, the researchers said. 'Which could pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health'.

Researchers found that 23% of raw meat pet food products contained a specific type of E coli that can cause renal failure in humans and 80% had antibiotic-resistant E coli.

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It said the pathogens can be transferred "through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food".

But if you're feeding Mittens a raw meat diet because "it's so natural" and "just what her wild ancestors would have eaten", it looks like science may not be on your side.

Commercial raw-meat pet foods sold in the United States and Europe contain "all kinds of meat, organs, and bones, sometimes with vegetables or fruits added", says Overgaauw.

"Feeding of freshly prepared, non-frozen raw meat based-diets to companion animals cannot only result in infection and disease in the animals, but also poses a risk to public health and livestock farming through shedding of pathogens into the environment", the researchers conclude. Conventional pet food is also heated during processing, which kills all germs.

The research concluded that raw meat products should come with health risk warnings on the labels and packaging.

The Utrecht study said claims RMBDs yield health benefits had no scientific evidence supporting them, adding: "in nutritional terms, these diets are often deficient in several nutrients and may therefore lead to serious health problems, especially in young animals that are growing". Pet owners should also be educated about personal hygiene and proper handling of raw meat products.

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