November 6, 2008

79 Sickened By Salmonella-Contaminated Pet Food

At least 79 people have become sick due to exposure to dry pet food that had been contaminated with salmonella.

Brands affected include Special Kitty, Pedigree and Member's Mark, among others made by Mars Petcare. Contaminated brands have been recalled, but some pet owners may still possess some of the contaminated food in their homes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Dry pet food has a 1-year shelf life. Contaminated products identified in recalls might still be in the homes of purchasers and could cause illness. Persons who have these products should not use them to feed their pets but should discard them or return them to the store," the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.

No deaths have been linked to the outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Schwarzengrund. Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12"“72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. No pets have been reported sickened.

The CDC team collaborated with public health officials in Pennsylvania and other state health departments as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify cases of the multi-state outbreak.

"Mars Petcare U.S. has taken steps to ensure that recalled products are no longer on store shelves. On October 1, the company announced that the Everson (Pennsylvania) plant would be closed permanently," the CDC team wrote.

"Consumers and health departments should be aware that all dry pet food, pet treats, and pet supplements might be contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, and consumers should use precautions with all brands of dry pet food, treats, and supplements," the CDC report reads.

"In contrast, canned pet food is unlikely to be contaminated with such pathogens because the manufacturing process should eliminate bacterial contamination."

The CDC advises consumers to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap immediately after being exposed to pet foods and treats. Parents are advised to keep infants away from pet feeding areas.


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