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Most US Dog Owners Don’t Follow FDA Pet Foods

image: Studio mascot, Sally Star, at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
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Credit: Emily Luisana, CC-BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

A new analysis suggests that most U.S. dog owners are unaware of, and don’t follow, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) guidelines on safe handling of pet food and dishes, but that a better education and implementation of the guidelines could reduce contamination. Dr. Emily Luisana of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and her colleagues present these findings in the open access journal PLUS ONE on April 6, 2022.

Handling pet food and dishes poses potential health risks to both dogs and people, especially those with compromised immune systems. Multiple outbreaks of bacterial illnesses have occurred between dogs and humans as a result of contaminated dog food. The FDA has issued guidelines on protocols for the safe handling of pet food and dishes, available online, but information is limited and the effects of the recommendations are unclear.

To help clarify, Dr. Luisana and her colleagues surveyed 417 dog owners. They found that less than 5 percent were aware of the guidelines and many owners did not follow many of the recommendations. For example, only one-third reported washing their hands after eating, and only two-thirds reported preparing dog food on surfaces separate from those used for human food. This latter fact has potential public health importance but is not addressed in the FDA recommendations.

To better understand the effects of the FDA recommendations, researchers tested 68 household dog food bowls for bacterial contamination. After the initial test, they divided the owners into three groups with different instructions for implementing the food handling guidelines, then tested the dishes again after 1 week. They found significantly reduced contamination from plates from owners who instituted the FDA’s pet food handling guidelines, either alone or in combination with the FDA’s human food handling protocol, compared to plates from pets. owners who were not asked to implement any of the protocols.

The researchers note that their study was small and that future research could clarify optimal hygiene strategies and ways to communicate them.

However, based on their findings, the researchers outline suggestions for reducing contamination in pet food dishes for owners, veterinarians, pet food retailers and manufacturers. These include ensuring that household members feeding pets comply with FDA guidelines and include written information about the guidelines with pet food sales.

The authors add: “Most pet owners are unaware that pet food bowls can be a hidden source of bacteria in the home. Knowing how to mitigate this risk and practicing proper pet food storage and hygiene can make for a happier and healthier home.”

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Author Interview: https://plos.io/36XM1qM

In your coverage, use this URL to provide access to the article freely available at PLUS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0259478

Citation: Luisana E, Saker K, Jaykus LA, Getty C (2022) Survey evaluation of dog owners’ feeding practices and assessment of dog bowl hygiene in home settings. PLoS ONE 17(4): e0259478. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0259478

Author Countries: USA

Money: The authors received no specific funding for this work.


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