Have pets? Once baby is crawling, your dog or cat's food dish will probably become an irresistible fascination. But beyond being a choking hazard if small pieces of pet food are ingested, contact with pet food may also be putting babies at risk for Salmonella infection, according to a new study published August 9, 2010, in an online issue of the journal Pediatrics. The study focused on the first documented outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with dry dog and cat food (from 2006 to 2008). Of the 79 patients identified, 48 percent were children aged 2 or younger.
Why are young children more susceptible? The study notes that illness among infants was strongly tied with feeding pets in the kitchen, and not just with actually putting the contaminated food in their mouths. According to researchers, it appears that babies' direct contact with animals, and indirect contact in environments where animals live, wander, and keep their food and water dishes are all culprits in the spread of Salmonella.
Not all pet food is contaminated with Salmonella, of course, but the study highlights the importance of proper storage and handling of pet foods in the home to prevent human illness, especially among young children. Mars Petcare US plant in Everson, Pennsylvania, including Pedigree and Special Kitty, recommends the following steps to reduce the risk of spreading any pet food-related infection:
- Wash hands after contact with pets, pet food, and pet bowls.
- Routinely clean pet food bowls and feeding areas.
- Keep children younger than age 5 away from pet food and feeding areas.
- Clean pets' food and water dishes in a separate sink or tub, not in the kitchen or bathtub.