Most U.S. dog owners are unaware of guidelines on safe pet food and dish handling from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a recent survey.
The survey suggests that better education and implementation of the guidelines could reduce contamination.
Dr. Emily Luisana of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues presented these findings in a recent issue of Plos One.
Multiple outbreaks of bacterial illness among dogs and humans have occurred as a result of contaminated dog food. The FDA has issued guidelines on protocols for safe pet food and dish handling, available online, but the information is limited, and the effects of the recommendations have been unclear.
Dr. Luisana and colleagues surveyed 417 dog owners. Less than 5 percent were aware of the guidelines, and many owners did not follow many of the recommendations. For instance, only one third reported washing their hands after feeding.
FDA tips for preparing pet food include:
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before and after handling pet food.
- Wash pet food bowls with soap and hot water after each use.
- Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean scoop, spoon, or cup instead.
- Throw out old or spoiled pet food by placing it in a securely-tied plastic bag in a covered trash can.
Complete tips are available at: https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/animal-health-literacy/tips-safe-handling-pet-food-and-treats
To better understand the effects of the FDA recommendations, the researchers tested 68 household dog food dishes for bacterial contamination. After initial testing, they divided the owners into three groups with different instructions for implementing food handling guidelines, then tested the dishes again after one week.
Significantly reduced contamination of dishes was found from owners who instituted the FDA’s pet food handling guidelines, either alone or in combination with the FDA’s human food handling protocol, versus dishes from owners who were not asked to implement either protocol.
Based on their findings, the researchers outline suggestions to reduce contamination in pet food dishes for owners, veterinarians, pet food sellers and manufacturers. These include ensuring household members who feed pets adhere to FDA guidelines and including written information on guidelines with pet food sales.
Luisana E, Saker K, Jaykus L-A, Getty C (2022) Survey evaluation of dog owners’ feeding practices and dog bowls’ hygiene assessment in domestic settings. PLoS ONE 17(4): e0259478. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259478