The principles of food safety need to be applied when handling raw pet food because, like other types of food, it can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that may cause food poisoning. This is because some types of pet food, including treats where it may not be obvious, are made of raw meat and other unprocessed animal products.
Even pet food where it has been lightly cooked may not have been fully pasteurised and could still contain potentially harmful bacteria, therefore it needs to be handled properly to keep you and your family safe.
Hygiene around raw pet food
The most important thing is to keep your family and pets safe when handling raw pet food, here are our top tips:
- Hands should be washed with soap and warm water immediately after handling and preparing any raw pet food or treats
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food such as microwaves, work surfaces, storage containers and utensils Freeze raw pet food until you are ready to use them
- Use a dedicated container for storing raw pet food and treats
- Keep raw pet food away from other food in the fridge or freezer
- Defrost frozen pet foods away from other food in the fridge
- If you’re defrosting raw pet food it can produce a lot of liquid, this liquid will spread bacteria to any food, plates or surfaces that it touches, so keep defrosted raw pet food in a sealed container that is clearly labelled at the bottom of the fridge, so that it can't touch or drip onto other foods
Read more about cross contaminiation.
Some reptile foods such as frozen or defrosted mice, rats and chicks can also contain salmonella and be a potential source of infection for both the reptile and its owners. Reptiles can carry salmonella in their gut without showing any signs of infection, so there is a chance it can pass from reptiles to people and cause infection.
The general advice mentioned above for handling raw pet food should be followed as well as:
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after feeding your reptile and after handling raw (frozen or defrosted) mice, rats or chicks
- Keep your reptile out of rooms where food is prepared and eaten and limit the parts of the house where your reptile is allowed to roam freely
Children and pets
Infants and children are more susceptible to foodborne illness because their immune systems are still developing. Children can be more at risk because they are more likely than others to put their fingers or other items into their mouths.
Try to keep infants and children away from areas where pets are fed andthey should not touch or eat raw pet food or treats. If they do have contact, wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water afterwards.
Under the Microscope - pathogen risks
Pet owners should be mindful of potential risks because raw pet food can be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella, campylobacter, listeria and e. coli which can pose a significant health risk to pet owners and their families.
Foodborne pathogens are found in the gut of animals which spreads when the meat is processed, which is how it ends up contaminating pet food. This means that in particular raw pet food is a more risky product because some pet food can be made from raw, lightly cooked, steamed or unpasteurised meat.