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Fighting Salmonella In Pet Food

Updated on September 3, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock, and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.


New Compliance Policy Guide In Force

Pet owners have had the specter of pet food contamination hanging over their heads ever since the “Big Pet Food Recall of 2007.”

Since then many pet parents have been all but paranoid about what they feed their pets.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has jumped through all sorts of hoops in an effort to pin down the sources of contamination, especially regarding imported ingredients.

This hub reports on the efforts and frustrating dead ends experienced by FDA in their quest to make pet foods safer.

On July 16, 2013 FDA released its updated Compliance Policy Guide for its field staff. The agency has a zero-tolerance policy for Salmonella in pet foods because of its potential harm to human health.

If it isn’t intended to undergo treatment to kill bacteria, provisions in the guide consider any pet food or pet food ingredient contaminated with Salmonella to be potentially harmful to health.

The guide spells out actions they intend to take when finding Salmonella contamination in food for animals. The old guide being replaced had provisions in it that dated as far back as 1967. The new guide targets its resources more effectively to protect the health of both animals and humans.

The term “food for animals” is broadly based. It means “dog and cat foods, aquarium fish foods, treats, chews, nutritional supplements, and other pet products.”

Presumably, by “other pet products” the agency is referring to food, treats, and supplements for hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets, and other pets that people may own.

The FDA’s concern about Salmonella contamination in pet foods is focused more on the danger to humans, especially those considered “at risk” such as children, the elderly, and those whose immune systems are compromised.

These individuals are more likely to come in direct contact with contaminated pet products.


It’s a little different when it comes to horse and livestock feeds. Because the general public is much less likely to come in direct contact with livestock feeds, FDA’s focus is more on the strains of Salmonella that are capable of causing disease in the animal for which the food is intended.

For example, there’s a strain known as Salmonella Choleraesuis that affects pigs. Perhaps you’ve heard of hog cholera or swine fever. The new guide lists the various strains of Salmonella and the species of animals those strains put at risk.

With upwards of 50 million U.S. households regularly buying some type of animal food, the health risk is something to be reckoned with, and there needs to be a concerted effort to insure the purity of animal feed.

But, the FDA can’t do it alone. Everyone who handles, or otherwise processes food intended for pets and livestock should adopt an “out of an abundance of caution” corporate mentality in their daily dealings.


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