What is Listeria and where does it come from?
Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacteria that can be found in soil, water, sprouts, and in the digestive tracts of poultry and cattle. Raw milk, products made from raw milk like soft cheeses, smoked seafood and processed meat can be contaminated with this bacteria.
Listeria can stand the cold and happily grows and multiplies on in the cold of the refrigerator. On the other hand, Listeria is killed by cooking and pasteurization (of milk).
Should we be afraid of Listeria in dog food?
When we get sick from Listeria we call it Listeriosis. Dogs and cats rarely get listeriosis and usually don’t display any symptoms. As for humans: If you have a healthy and strong immune system you can eat contaminated food and not get sick. But when you do get Listeriosis it can be dangerous, even deadly.
“It’s especially dangerous to pregnant women and newborns and those with weakened immune systems such as cancer or organ transplant patients” – Dr. Emilio DeBess, State’s public health veterinarian in Statesmanjournal.com
Often symptoms appear short-term and flu-like with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. However, in susceptible patients these may become severe to very severe ranging from meningitis and brain abscesses to even death. Listeriosis can be cleared from your system by your own immune system, but treatment with antibiotics is indicated when you have an impaired immune system. Still, over 90 percent of people with listeriosis are hospitalized (source: FDA) and it’s the 3rd leading cause of death from food poisoning (source: CDC).
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling raw dog food to prevent getting sick from bacteria.
In the United States about 1600 people are infected with Listeria each year resulting in 260 deaths. In the European Union we counted 2161 cases in 2014 continuing an upward trend since 2008. Now this is not from dog food contamination alone as several food sources, such as soft cheeses, are involved.
Dog food recalls involving Listeria
Stella & Chewy’s (“S&C”) pet food “Stella’s Super Beef Dinner Morsels” was voluntarily recalled in the U.S. and Canada on december 11, 2015. This was a precautionary recall that was initiated after Listeria was found in a routine lab test. Since then the product line has been moved to a new manufacturing plant and policy changes have been made to prevent this from happening again.
“We also recalled several other products, which did not test positive, but were made on the same line on the same day so we pulled those products just to be safe as well.” – Gregg Coccari, CEO Stella & Chewy’s in Statesmanjournal.com
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists all required details regarding dog food recalls (including product photo’s, lot numbers and ‘use by’ dates). You can subscribe to receive recalls, market withdrawal and safety alerts or check their animal & veterinary recall archive.
- MarlerClark, a law firm that represents victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, has a website dedicated to Listeria where you can find a lot of information about listeria infections.
- Tips for safe handling of dog food