Most dog owners do not handle pet food safely, putting families at risk of foodborne illness

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Most dog owners in the United States don’t know how to safely handle pet food and dishes, putting their families at risk for foodborne illnesses, a new study finds.

Researchers at North Carolina State University in Raleigh suggested that less than 5% of 417 dog owners were aware of the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines for safe handling of pet food. The results were recently published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Most pet owners are unaware that pet food bowls can be a hidden source of bacteria in the home,” the researchers said. “Knowing how to mitigate this risk and practicing proper pet food storage and sanitation can result in a happier, healthier household.”

Only a third of the pet owners in the study said they followed FDA recommendations, such as B. washing hands after feeding, and only two-thirds reported preparing dog food on surfaces other than those used for human consumption.

Researchers also tested 68 household dog food sets for bacterial contamination. After initial testing, they divided the owners into three groups and gave each group different food handling instructions. The dog food bowls were retested after one week.

The study found significantly less contamination in dishes from owners who implemented FDA pet food handling guidelines compared to dishes from owners who didn’t.

Here are tips for handling pet food safely, with information from the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

* Wash your hands with soap and water immediately after handling pet food or treats.

* Store pet food and treats in the original packaging so the UPC code, lot number, and other information is readily available in the event of a product defect or recall.

*If you put dry food in another storage container, make sure the container is clean, dry and has a tight fitting lid to keep the food fresh. Record the UPC code, lot number, and other information by affixing this information to the outside of the container. Wash and dry the storage bin between kibble bags.

* Store dry pet food and unopened canned food in a cool, dry place. Excessive heat or humidity can cause the nutrients to break down.

* Do not store pet food and treats where human food is stored or prepared. Keep away from small children.

* Do not use your pet’s food bowl to pick up food. Use a clean, suitable scoop, spoon or cup.

* Wash and dry pet food bowls and scooping utensils after each use. Wash water bowls daily.

* Refrigerate or throw away unused or leftover canned and pet food.

* Don’t let your pet lick their mouth and face after eating. If you play with your pet after it has just eaten, wash your hands and any other part of the body that it has licked with soap and water.

* Discontinue use of product and call your veterinarian if you notice a foul pet food odor, the can or bag is swollen or leaking, you find a foreign object in the product, or your pet becomes ill after eating.

Raw pet food requires special handling

Raw pet food is more likely than processed pet food to contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria that can make pets and people sick. For this reason, the CDC does not recommend feeding raw foods to pets.

When feeding raw food to pets, here are specific handling tips:

* Freeze raw pet food until ready to use.

* Do not keep raw pet food in your fridge or freezer with other foods.

* Do not place frozen raw pet food on a counter or in a sink to thaw.

* Wash your hands with soap and water after handling raw pet food.

* Clean and disinfect all surfaces that have been in contact with raw food, such as B. Countertops, microwave ovens, refrigerators, bowls and utensils.

* Throw away thawed food that your pet won’t eat.

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