Salmonella: Pathogen of politics


By Tracie Korol

Any food in the commercial food stream can present a bio-hazard. Lunch meats at the deli are notorious for being Listeria vectors. We’re told not to rinse our factory chickens before cooking to reduce the risk of splashing Salmonella all over the kitchen.  My personal food-bacteria creep-out is the lemon slice in every restaurant water/iced tea glass. They’re fingered by everyone — from the folks who pick the fruit, the people in the packing plants, the back-room handlers all the way down to the waitron who slices it at the bar — and rarely, if ever, washed. (Source: my son, the chef.)

Recently, the FDA announced new guidelines for feeding our pets: Do not feed raw food because of the risk of Salmonella.  But why just raw food? Why not kibbles that are recalled every week? Salmonella lives just about everywhere and has adapted well to diverse environments, can survive for weeks in water and years in the soil.  It thrives when conditions of humidity, temperature and pH are favorable in areas like sitting water, wet soil shielded from the sun, and unclean fecal contaminated areas.

Its principal habitat is the intestinal tract of humans and animals. Dogs generally have low stomach pH and shorter GI tracts than humans meaning their stomach acid makes it harder for Salmonella to make it all the way through.  That’s why our people friends complain about having “stomach flu” for a day or so while our dog friends do not.  Most likely a dirty lemon. There has been no known reported incidence of human beings being infected with Salmonella by raw-fed cats and dogs.

Salmonella can be found in up to 36% of all healthy dogs regardless of the food they consume. Many pets harbor these bacteria as a part of their normal GI flora and naturally shed Salmonella organisms in feces and saliva regardless of what food they eat. If a body’s immune system is sound, bad bacteria are typically kept in check by the good flora of the intestines.

As you know, I am a proponent for feeding dogs real food as much as it is financially feasible. And as you know, I think kibble, even the best, is still fast food processed from creamed mysterious body parts, chemicals and unpronounceable additives in factories that may or may not have good cleaning crews that then sits in bags for undisclosed periods of time in un-refrigerated warehouses. Even more unappealing than dirty lemons.

If you are a reasonably tidy sort and you personally manage what foods go into your family — and your dog is family, too — then you can be fairly content knowing that Salmonella is probably not going to be an issue. If your food came from a reputable source (hopefully, a local farm), if you handle it properly and prepare it well, whether you choose to feed raw or choose to cook for your Best Friend, you should not be faced with the symptoms. But kibble is currently the prime culprit in pet-related Salmonella outbreaks, not real food. Check out the FDA’s own website (FDA.gov) for a list of processed pet foods currently under recall for Salmonella, among other nasties. New recalls are added every day.

So why is the FDA picking on raw foods? Because there’s no lobby for real food. Because there’s a lot of money backing commercially prepared foods. For instance, the Associated Press reported that Schering-Plough Corp. spent half a million dollars in the third quarter of 2008 to lobby on veterinary products, drug pricing and food-based issues. One lobby group spent $500,000 in three months? Just imagine how much money is spent in total by Big Ag and Big Pharm lobbyists alone.  After all, the APPA (American Pet Products Association) projects $58.51 billion will be spent on US pets in 2014.  It’s a huge and growing market.  Everyone wants a bit of that Big Money.

But what about your Best Friend?  Feed raw if you think it will make your pet happier and healthier.  Just be smart, that’s all.

• Store raw food in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator;

• Store kibble in a sealed container out of reach of children;

• Don’t allow children to handle the dog’s food. If they do, make sure they wash their hands afterward;

• Properly wash hands, all bowls, utensils and contact surfaces after handling the dog’s food (kibble or raw);

• Limit time raw food is held at room temperature during feeding to less than 2 hours and dispose of food left out for periods longer than this;

• Pick up your dog’s poop and always wash your hands with soap and warm water afterward.

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