FDA Turns Up Heat on Raw Pet Food

June 11, 2015

By Ricardo Carvajal

In an unusually public manner, FDA announced the issuance of an assignment to its field staff to collect official samples of raw food intended for consumption by dogs or cats.  The samples will be analyzed for SalmonellaListeria monocytogenesE. coli O157:H7, and non-O157:H7 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (known as STEC).  According to the assignment, positive findings “may result in a Class I recall, press release, and Reportable Food Registry (RFR) submission.”

The assignment states that an increasing number of dog and cat owners have begun feeding their pets foods marketed as raw – a phenomenon of concern to FDA given reports in the scientific literature of the presence of pathogens in some such foods, and also in stool samples of some animals consuming those foods.  These reports, together with reports of human illness resulting from pathogens transmitted by dogs or cats, indicate to FDA that “feeding raw foods to household pets such as dogs or cats carries a risk to human and animal health.”

Potential risks aside, the agency recognizes that there exists consumer demand for raw pet food, and is therefore making a push to educate consumers about the safe handling of such food.  Perhaps not coincidentally, the CDC recently published a blog posting advising consumers on ways to reduce potential risks associated with feeding raw pet food.  Notwithstanding such efforts to educate consumers, the FDA sampling assignment makes clear that the onus to ensure safety will continue to rest primarily with manufacturers.