This is Going to get Worse Before it Gets Worse…

Four STEC Infections; one Person Dead After Exposure to Raw Pet Food (but not Really)

When you read a title like the above on Food Safety News concerning some humans apparently getting poisoned by raw green tripe, you think you’re going to read something interesting, enlightening or in the least fact driven but it turns out it’s yet another example of the media talking….well, tripe.

It turns out all four infected “had contact with dogs” although one case was ruled out as having nothing to do with raw dog food. Still, the article states “it could also have come from an animal fed a raw meat-based diet without the case being aware of, or being able to recall it”. So, raw fed dogs can and will always be blamed, it seems.

So, three cases had “had contact” with dogs fed raw dog food, two got tripe from the same supplier. They tested the raw tripe and it was negative for the strain. You’d think that would be enough to rule it out but they conclude regardless “while the outbreak strain was not recovered from tripe this could be because samples tested were not necessarily from the batches fed to the case’s pets…it’s a plausible route”.

That may be true but it’s a very big and dangerous assumption and if I was the producer, even if not specifically mentioned in this article, I’d hang them.

So, the case is now very tenuous, if bordering pure scare-mongering. Still, the unreferenced article goes on to state “this adds to the evidence of raw pet food as a risk factor for zoonotic transmission of GI pathogens, which is already relatively widely accepted for Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter”.

But so far, only dry food has caused Salmonella in humans, more than 130 cases in fact, half them toddlers under two years of age. There has only ever been one suspected case in raw fed dogs, and they’re 10% of the population now, at least.

Taken from the forthcoming book;

In 2007 Schottea et al. (2007) linked an outbreak of illness in staff that were looking after military kennels in Montevideo to contaminated dry commercial feed. In another incident, following a major outbreak of Salmonella schwarzengrund in the US a colossal study was undertaken by Behravesh et al. (2010) which found dry food to be the cause for the outbreak. However it took the two teams three years to establish this. In that time 79 people in 21 states were poisoned with Salmonella schwarzengrund, half of which were children under two years of age. Reinberg (2008) traced the issue back to Mars Pet Care who ended up recalling over 100 brands and more than 23,000 tonnes of petfood. In 2012, 53 people from around the US and Canada, contracted Salmonella infantis from commercial petfoods, 20 of whom where children ≤ 2 years old. 1 in 3 ended up in hospital. The authors detected the Salmonella in the dry food but also from faceal samples taken from the dogs. Thus, in this 4 year window alone, dry food accounted for 132 cases of Salmonellosis in humans.

Oh, and did I mention that the other thing all owners had in common was carrots? Yep, carrots. For reasons unknown, this was completely ignored. A CDC surveillance report found that 48 million Americans a year (one in six) suffer food poisoning each year. 3,000 were killed by it.
Of Salmonella cases, vegetables and fruit occupy the top 1 and 2 causes of Salmonella in humans. (vegetables 18%, fruit 12%, with eggs at 12%, chicken 10%, beef 9%, pork 8%) a result of poor growing practices involving poo at some point! Also, leafy vegetables accounted for more than a third of all E.coli cases. Fruit accounted for half of all Listeria illnesses.

Kinda makes you think it might be the carrots then!!

More to the point, of the 450 Americans that die of Salmonella each year, and if 4.5 Americans own a dog, that’s 100 American dog owners dying of Salmonella each year. If 70% of these are entirely dry fed does this not raise concerns about dry-feeding?!

Despite all it’s flaws, the usual poorly informed and rush-to-outcry vets like Skeptvet share the above article as “evidence” that raw is incredibly dangerous, far more so than his beloved dry which not only has poisoned so many humans but, and again unlike raw dog food, has killed tens of thousands of dogs from chemical adulterations and gross nutrient imbalances, among many, many other concerns.

If like me you are wondering why this stinks more than the tripe they aim to condemn, you just need to remember that a whole lot of money is at stake here. The UK dog food industry alone (£1.1bil) is bigger than UK music industry (£1bil), add in cats and treats and the figure doubles. The dry food industry (which controls say 70% of it) is not going to take the advance of fresh food lying down. When it no longer makes financial sense for them to fight it, they will stop paying off vested interests to push their nonsense and buy out the raw companies. Then you will be offered (really bad) “fresh” food products for your pet. Until then, as we say with big oil, tobacco, bottled milk and all the countless others, there will be vast amounts of misinformation, sometimes from authoritative-looking sources, while the truth slowly trickles out.

As a final bit of hilarity, I want to draw your attention to page 12 of the report which talks about how one case of Salmonella may have been transmitted. It reads

Furthermore, one case had close contact with a dog, including brushing its teeth with their own toothbrush, this dog was also fed a raw meat-based diet

These people exist folks.

Raw feeders (or meat and vegetables, it seems!), you know you’re handling a raw, untreated food. The meat chain, particularly the US and Asian meat chains, are rife with bacterial concerns (UK and Ireland less so, 5% versus 20% of US retail meat is contaminated with Salmonella, approximately). It necessitates some care. Top tips include:

  • Buy from reputable suppliers (the ones that have clean meat)
  • Wash hands and surfaces after
  • Keep meat in its own tub at the bottom of your shelf
  • Pick up dog poop daily.
  • Don’t toddlers handle the food or interact with the dogs when eating. Give the dog some minutes after to clean his face and mouth.

Take these simple precautions and both you and your dog will be safer and healthier than opting for the inert, contaminated, chemical-riddled processed muck spewed out the anus of an utterly filthy pet food industry.

Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.
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