Raw meat pet foods 'may carry deadly bugs', experts warn

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Humans can get sick from bacteria and parasites lurking in raw-meat products, too.

"T$3 he claimed health benefits attributed to the feeding of raw meat-based diets are mostly anecdotal, and no studies have produced results in support of these statements", the team writes in the study. In fact, humans may face higher risks than their pets, who can be carriers and shedders of these pathogens even when they don't become sick themselves. The Sarcocystes species are not zoonotic but pose a risk to farm animals.

Pet owners and other household members can come into contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in several ways, including direct contact with the food or with an infected pet, through contact with contaminated household surfaces, or by eating cross-contaminated human food.

"Cats and dogs that eat raw meat diets are also more likely to become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets, which could pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health", lead researcher Paul Overgaauw, from Utrecht University, and colleagues said in a journal news release.

RMBDs can form all sorts of products crafted for pets: dried treats for cats and dogs, homemade and manufactured meals.

The study was published January 11 in the journal Vet Record. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly unsafe strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples.

Traditional fare Henry prepares to tuck into canned dog food in the 1970s advertisement alongside Clement Freud
Traditional fare Henry prepares to tuck into canned dog food in the 1970s advertisement alongside Clement Freud Credit BBC

They wrote: "The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in RMBDs could therefore pose a serious risk to both animal health and public health - not only because infections with these bacteria are hard to treat, but also because of the potential of it contributing to a more widespread occurence of such bacteria".

In addition, four products (11 per cent) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella.

Commercial dry or canned pet foods are safer because the composition of the food is complete and optimally balanced in terms of nutrients, he said.

If you're concerned about how best to feed your cats or dogs, chat to a vet for their recommendations. The study also stressed that there is no difference in the possible danger between packaged, frozen meats and raw food prepared at home.

Researchers said these raw meat foods should be labeled to reflect their potential risks, which include cross contamination with human foods or pathogen shedding by pets - both of which could be harmful to people.

It found that E. coli was present in eight products (23 per cent), Listeria species were found in 15 products (43 per cent) and Salmonella species in seven products (20 per cent).

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