I have written previously about the issue of raw pet food diets, pointing out the lack of any significant evidence to support claims that these diets are beneficial for pets the many risks such diets can pose, such as nutritional inadequacy, and the exposure of both pets and their owners to disease-causing organisms such as Salmonella and E. coli. A new study adds an important potential concern to this list of risks.
Acke, E. Midwinter, J. Collins-Emerson, J. French, N. Campylobacter species and multilocus sequence types from commercial raw meat diets for pets. Abstract, 2011 Congress of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. J Vet Int Med 2011;25(6):1496.
Campylobacter is a significant cause of foodborne illness in humans, and it is most commonly acquired from undercooked meat and poultry. Pets can be infected with Campylobacter and can be source of infection for people.
The authors tested 50 samples of raw meat pet diets acquired from supermarkets and pet stores in New Zealand for the presence of Campylobacter. Twenty of these diets (42%) tested positive for Campylobacter, and over half of the bacteria identified were the type most commonly associated with illness in humans.
While bacterial contamination is a potential risk for any food with animal ingredients, the risk is considerably higher if these ingredients are not cooked. And while cases of human illness associated with raw pet diet do not appear to be common, such illnesses can be very serious. Given that there are no established benefits to feeding raw meat diets to our pets, it is difficult to justify such risks.