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Pet Food Making Kids Sick

The average baby’s diet includes many things that are not on the menu. After all, they spend lots of time at ground level where they come across interesting things that must be investigated by mouth.  Dirt.  Bits of paper.  Dog food.  And while it is unlikely that a little soil from the garden or a bit of magazine will do much harm, that kibble in the dog’s bowl just might.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79 people were sickened by salmonella-tainted dry pet food between 2006 and 2008.   Most of the incidents occurred in the eastern states and nearly half involved children under the age of two.  This is the first known salmonella outbreak in humans that can be linked to dry pet food.

The pet food responsible for the illnesses has been traced back to the Mars Petcare US plant in Everson, PA, where brands including Pedigree and Special Kitty were produced.  That plant was permanently shut down in 2008 after investigators failed to determine just how the pet food was contaminated.

But despite the fact that there have been no more salmonella illnesses in humans linked to pet food since that time, there have been more pet food recalls.  And experts say that pet owners with small children in the house need to take precautions.

It is important to note that it is unlikely that those who were sickened by the pet food were actually eating it.  Instead, they probably handled the pet food, the bowl or even the water bowl and then put their hands in their mouths without first washing up.

The study authors recommend that pediatricians ask about pets when evaluating certain illnesses in children and advise pet owners to take the following precautions:

  • wash hands after contact with pets, pet food and pet bowls,
  • regularly clean pet food bowls as well as feeding areas,
  • keep children younger than age 5 away from pet food and feeding areas,
  • cleaning pets’ food and water dishes in a separate sink or tub, not in the kitchen or bathtub,
  • avoiding bathing infants in the kitchen sink.

And because your pets are your children too, stay on top of pet food recall information by signing up for email alerts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

Image: MShades/Flickr

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