Food Standards Scotland has imposed a Scottish ban on all feeder rodent imports from Lithuania used as pet food, after a link was confirmed between a Salmonella outbreak in people and feeder rodents used for reptile food originating from a premises in Lithuania.
The ban, imposed until further notice by FSS along with other countries in the UK including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs comes after a joint investigation by FSA, FSS, APHA, DEFRA, UKHSA and other public health bodies into an outbreak of salmonella affecting over 900 people in the UK. FSS and its partners are continuing to urge people to be extra careful when handling any frozen rodents including mice product and packaging due to the risk of salmonella.
People should be extra vigilant, washing hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after contact, when handling not just the product, but their reptiles and associated equipment and environment, due to the risk of the illness.
A spokesperson for Food Standards Scotland said:
“As we continue to see a rise in the number of cases of Salmonella Enteritidis linked to feeder rodents imported from Lithuania, we, along with the other countries in the UK, have taken necessary action imposing safeguard measures, banning this product from being imported from Lithuania and sold across the UK. We’ll continue to work with the authorities in Lithuania to tackle the contamination at source.
“Even though this ban has been introduced to ensure public health is protected, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of good hygiene practice when handling raw or frozen pet food, as well as the reptiles itself.
“The feed should be suitably stored, ideally in a dedicated storage compartment or freezer, not in contact with human food and it should always be defrosted naturally at room temperature on newspaper or paper towels away from human food and food preparation surfaces. Any surfaces and equipment used should be thoroughly disinfected.
“Handlers and pet owners must always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after handling the frozen and defrosted feed and handling your reptile and their equipment.”
Advice to reptile owners about feeding their pets:
Snake owners and others using frozen mice as food may have concerns about maintaining their animal’s welfare, as the import ban will cause short term shortages. There should be sufficient mice to maintain animal welfare for all snakes and other animals, including birds that need to be fed mice, if owners adapt their current feeding routines. Detailed advice will be published online.
Advice to parents and guardians of children handling reptiles:
Children have been particularly affected so we are urging parents and guardians to make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm soapy water every time they handle and feed mice to their pets and handle their reptiles to reduce risk of becoming ill with Salmonella. Both the vivarium and the areas reptiles are able to roam could be contaminated with Salmonella. Good hygiene should be observed.
If you, or other family members become ill with symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever, consult your doctor or NHS 111 and inform them that you own/keep a reptile. If you have symptoms, make sure you wash your hands regularly and avoid preparing food for others. Do not go to work or school until 48 hours after symptoms have passed to reduce the chances of passing on the infection.
Information on further food hygiene practices can be found here.