Researchers suggested that many Americans don’t wash their hands after
feeding or playing with their cats and dogs and aren’t aware of the risk ofcontracting a foodborne illness from those activities.
Adapted from a press release:
A study led by Purdue University’s Yaohua “Betty” Feng, an assistant professorof food science, showed that many Americans don’t wash their hands afterfeeding or playing with their cats and dogs and aren’t aware of the risk ofcontracting a foodborne illness from those activities, presumably fromcontaminated pet food. The Journal of Food Protection published the study,“Risk of Foodborne Illness from Pet Food: Assessing Pet Owners’ Knowledge,Behavior, and Risk Perception.”
“Almost all dog and cat owners interact with their pets closely like cuddling,sleeping with them, kissing them, but after those interactions fewer than one-third of them wash their hands with soap,” said Feng in a press release. “Theydon’t really consider that they could get sick or that a foodborne pathogencould be transferred from their pet to themselves.”
“Some dogs and cats do not have symptoms, even if they were contaminated withfoodborne pathogens like Salmonella. There’s potential for them to sharethose pathogens with their owners when interacting with them,” Feng said.
Survey of pet owners in United States
According to the survey of more than 1,000 cat and dog owners in the UnitedStates:
- 93 percent of pet owners cuddle their pets, 70 percent allow the pet to lick them, 63 percent sleep with their pets, and 61 percent kiss their pets.
- Only 31 percent wash their hands after playing with their pets, and 42 percent do not wash their hands after feeding their pets.
- 8 percent reported eating pet food and treats themselves.
The study showed that 78 percent of people were not aware of recent pet foodrecalls or outbreaks associated with foodborne pathogens in those foods. One-quarter of people do not consider dry pet foods and treats as potentialsources of these pathogens.
Raw meat or raw animal product diets are growing in prevalence for supposedhealth benefits. The study showed that about 25% of respondents feed theirpets raw foods, but about half of those people did not report washing theirhands after those feedings and allowed their pets to lick them.
Feng said the results suggest that pet owners need more education about thesafety of pet foods and proper handling of food and pets to preventcontracting an illness. She plans to develop materials that will address thoseissues.
Some tips to keep pet owners from getting foodborne illness include:
- Wash hands with soap and water after preparing food for pets, petting or playing with pets, and before preparing food for people.
- Avoid feeding pets raw meat.
- Handle and store pet food carefully to avoid cross-contamination.
- Keep up with pet food recalls and keep records of pet food lot numbers and other information for potential tracking.
“We’re not saying you shouldn’t hug your dog, but you should know the risksand how to protect yourself against the possibility of contracting anillness,” Feng said. “Learning the risk to your pet will make you an informedpet owner and avoid some of the pitfalls that could make you or your pet ill.”
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