Pet food linked to Salmonella poisoning in children

By Tom Nordlie • Published: October 6th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you’re the parent of a young child, brace yourself.

Here’s one more thing you need to worry about…

Pet food.

A study published recently in the journal Pediatrics outlines a small but alarming outbreak of Salmonella poisoning related to dry dog and cat food.

Here’s the odd part…

The patients didn’t get sick from eating pet food.

Instead, bacteria apparently got onto their hands.

The outbreak happened between 2006 and 2008, mostly in the northeastern United States.

The pathogen was a rare form of Salmonella. It was traced back to a factory in Pennsylvania, which later closed.

In total, about eighty people from twenty states were sickened. Half the victims were under age two.

Fortunately, no one died.

In the study, researchers interviewed parents and examined documents, trying to find how the victims encountered the pathogen.

Some of the most likely explanations were handling pet food, playing in pet feeding areas or playing with pets.

The researchers suggested several precautions.

One is, don’t let kids feed pets.

Another is, don’t feed pets in the kitchen.

Wash feeding dishes frequently to discourage bacterial growth.

Finally, make sure everyone washes up or uses hand sanitizer after contact with pets or their food.

Maybe these rules sound overly cautious.

But keep in mind that dry pet food isn’t made to be sterile.

Moreover, Salmonella bacteria sometimes live in the digestive systems of apparently healthy dogs and cats.

And a common form of Salmonella causes one-point-four-million illnesses each year, and four-hundred deaths.

Yes, it’s one more thing to worry about.

But a little extra diligence and effort might save a little someone… or even a big someone… from a very nasty illness.