Was it something I ate?

In 2014 in New Hampshire, over 20 people were infected with salmonella associated with pet treats. This is not because Americans are eating their pets’ treats, but because they are not washing their hands after handling them!  Typically, pet owners are showing symptoms of fever, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting within 12-24 hours of handling these treats. Pets can exhibit symptoms, but some may become carriers of the salmonella bacterium and show no symptoms at all.

In 2013 and 2015, there were large recalls of dog chew treats due to the presence of salmonella.  Some of the treats that have been implicated include rawhide bones, pig’s ears and chews.  Since June 2015, there have been 15 FDA recalls of dog foods and treats due to Salmonella and/or Listeria contamination.

The contamination can come from the pet, itself.  In 2012, 12 people in Wisconsin were infected with Salmonella cotham and 10 of these reported contact with pet reptiles.  S.cotham used to be a rare serotype, but now 160 people across 35 states have been infected with the WI strain.  Almost 60% of the victims were under five years of age. In many cases pet bearded dragons were the suspected source. Of 104 people interviewed, 83% reported contact with reptiles or their environments before becoming ill.   Of the reported contacts, 78% were lizards.  Some years ago a similar situation, with a different strain, occurred with pet terrapins/turtles.

These outbreaks highlight the importance of not assuming that food poisoning is caused by the consumption of food – anything that goes into the mouth can carry salmonella.

International Meat Topics – vol.5 number 5