Raw Pet Diet and “Natural” Pet Product Recalls

One of the comments often made in defense of raw diets and challenging the safety  of conventional commercial pet foods is, “If those foods are so safe, why are they always being recalled?” The implication, of course, is that a recall is an indication a food is unsafe. The reality is that while this is sometimes true, many recalls are precautionary, and a real health threat is often not found when the recalled product is analyzed. This information, however, rarely gets the widespread coverage in the media or on the internet that the original recall did.

In any case, even if the suggestion that how many recalls one can remember for a given company or type of food was a reliable guide to safety, it is simply not true that alternative products or those marketed as “natural” and so on are not recalled. I don’t have any statistical analysis comparing the relative rate of recalls, precautionary or related to confirmed health threats, for all the pet food products out there, but it is easy to find examples of recalls involving raw diets, “natural” diets and supplements, and other products marketed as safer or healthier than conventional foods and treats. Dr. Susan Wynn, a veterinarian with specialty training in nutrition and an advocate of many veterinary CAM approaches, frequently reports such recalls on her blog, including several recently involving a raw diet for cats contaminated with Salmonella, and a long list of vitamins and supplements, also with possible Salmonella contamination.

These particular products may or may not present a danger to animal or human health, and certainly if there is a possibility that they do then voluntarily recalling them is the responsible thing for their manufacturers to do. But it’s important to remember that the claims of greater safety or health benefits from raw diets or supposedly “natural” food products are not substantiated by any evidence, and that these products, like any other, can have risks.

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4 Responses to Raw Pet Diet and “Natural” Pet Product Recalls

  1. I love raw hamburger. I stopped eating it do to the risk of disease. Do we know if dogs and cats share about the same over all risk eating raw food as a human? Raw dog feeders promote the risk of feeding raw is less for dogs because dogs can eat carrion because their gi tract can kill infectious diseases humans would get from raw food. I suspect the human gi tract can also kill some infectious diseases that a dog gets from raw food but have seen no data on the subject.

  2. skeptvet says:

    I have never found any evidence to support the claim that dogs and cats are less susceptible to foodborne bacterial infection or parasites. For dogs, their stomach pH is the same as that of humans, and it is gastric pH that is considered the primary barrier to food-borne infection.

    There have been reports of dogs shedding harmful bacteria such as Salmonella after eating raw diets, and a case report of two cats with sepsis from Salmonella in a raw diet (http://www.skeptvet.com/index.php?p=1_12_Raw-Veterinary-Diets),
    so they are susceptible, though again I’m not aware of any evidence to determine if they are more or less susceptible than humans.

  3. Bartimaeus says:

    I’ve been noting the frequency of recalls of foods and supplements on Susan Wynn’s blog with interest as well. It certainly makes one wonder about claims to greater safety. I wonder if the perceived safety of homemade (cooked or raw) diets is partially due to the fact that there are no recalls. If the meat you buy for your pets has Salmonella or some other pathogen in it, it is never reported as a risk to pets, especially on a national level like these recalls.

  4. Pally says:

    Thank goodness for this sane information. It verifies what I have long suspected about the New Age-ish faddism of “natural” pet foods.

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