Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are urging reptile owners who have purchased certain feeder mice for their pets, to take extra precautions to avoid becoming ill with salmonellosis.
Scientists have again confirmed a link between Salmonella detected in feeder mice distributed by Monkfield Nutrition Ltd across all four UK nations, and an outbreak of human cases of Salmonella, however the risk to the general public is considered to be very low.
The feeder rodents affected, which were imported from Lithuania and are sold in a number of retailers, are typically fed to reptiles – particularly snakes.
Retailers must now, by law, provide customers buying the feeder mice from Monkfield Nutrition Ltd with an information leaflet about the risks of Salmonella infection and advise on good practice for handling animal food and hygiene in the home.
Food Standards Scotland, which leads on the safety and regulation of animal feed in Scotland, is working closely the FSA and public health and animal health agencies, as well as a range of other partners. In addition, the FSA is liaising with their local authorities and with Monkfield Nutrition Ltd, who have contacted all of their customers to inform them of the additional requirements.
The outbreak was first investigated in 2015 and has so far resulted in almost 850 reported human cases, mostly but not exclusively, living in households with one or more pet reptiles.
Salmonella are bacteria found in the gut of many animals, including reptiles. The bacteria can spread from carrier animals to cause illness in people. Though Salmonella infection in people usually causes short-term illness, with diarrhoea, fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain, more severe illness can occur.
It can have serious consequences, particularly for babies, young children, elderly people, and those with compromised immune systems, leading to hospitalisation in some cases.
The advice for pet handlers is that they should always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling reptiles, their cages and associated equipment, and after handling feed. Frozen feeder mice should be thawed on newspaper or kitchen towels preferably overnight, and away from food and food preparation surfaces and equipment.
Full guidelines can be found in the leaflet here.
Retailers must provide a leaflet explaining the risks associated with handling and feeding this type of material to reptiles and the importance of good hygiene with each sale of feeder mice.
Each of the organisations involved will continue to monitor this situation carefully, and act proportionately to ensure both public and animal health.