Scientists criticise trend for raw meat pet food after analysis finds pathogens

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While a lot of these products are frozen, this only kills of parasites, not bacteria.

That's why it's important for companies to inform pet owners of the possible risks that come with feeding their pets raw meat-based diets by including warnings on packages and labels.

But if you're feeding Mittens a raw meat diet because "it's so natural" and "just what her wild ancestors would have eaten", it looks like science may not be on your side. 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.

By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health.

T. gondii can cause disease in people, the researchers said. For example, through direct contact with the food or with an infected pet; through contact with contaminated household surfaces; or by eating cross-contaminated human food.

Products containing raw animal products are either homemade from ingredients bought from butchers or pet shops.

Contaminated raw meat, is a risk not only to the animal's health but also to the pet's owner, as bacteria and parasites can be passed between animals and humans easily. Even more worrisome, E. coli 0157-a particularly risky strain now responsible for a lettuce-based outbreak in North America-was found in 23% of the samples. The food also carries a number of bacteria that could infect dogs and spread to their owners.

Four products (11 percent) contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi, another four contained Sarcocystis tenella and in two products (6 percent) Toxoplasma gondii was found.

The results reveal that 23% of the products tested contained a type of E coli that can cause renal failure in humans, while 80% of products across seven brands contained antibiotic-resistant E coli.

"We have known that there are risks associated with raw meat feed diets since the early 2000s, but this is the first [research] in Europe that has gone as far as to check commercially available frozen raw meat diets", he said. "They think they are feeding dogs how they would eat in nature, like a wolf".

These pathogens are not only a risk to pets, people could also be exposed through cross-contamination with human food or contact with animals or feces, and the authors stress that owners should be made aware of these risks and encouraged to use proper hygiene.

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".

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