In casual conversations between veterinary nutritionists, “we realized that when it came to our own pets, we all had different storage and hygiene practices,” said co-author Emily Luisana. of the study and veterinary nutritionist for small animals. “Once we realized the (FDA’s) recommendations were relatively unknown, even among professionals, we wanted to see what other pet owners were doing.”
Luisana is a member of the Veterinary Advisory Board of Tailored, a dog food company run by pet nutrition experts. Caitlyn Getty, another study co-author, is the Scientific Affairs Veterinarian for NomNomNow Inc., a company focused on pet gut health and adapted foods. Neither company funded this study and the authors reported no competing interests. The study focuses on owners’ handling of any dog food, not the food brands themselves.
Awareness vs. action
Researchers found that 4.7% of 417 dog owners surveyed were aware of FDA guidelines on pet food handling and dishwashing hygiene – 43% of participants stored dog food outside less than 1.5 meters from human food, 34% washed their hands after eating and 33% prepared their dog food on preparation surfaces intended for human use.
Group B had to follow FDA food handling advice for pets and humans, which also required hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water; scrape food from dishes before washing; wash dishes with soap and water above 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 C) for at least 30 seconds, dry thoroughly with a clean towel, or use a National Sanitation Foundation certified dishwasher for washing and drying.
Group C received no instructions, but were told when the second swab would take place.
Contamination of Group C boluses increased between swabs. None of the Group C owners had washed their dogs’ bowls in the approximately eight days since the authors collected the first bacterial sample, “even though they were advised that FDA guidelines existed and the bowl would be sampled again,” Luisana said.
“It shows that awareness of current recommendations is not enough on its own,” she added.
Reduce the risk of contamination
The authors said they believe this education is especially important for vulnerable populations, such as immunocompromised people.
However, 20% of people in groups A and B in the current study said they were likely to follow hygiene instructions long-term, and even fewer – 8% – said they were likely to follow. all instructions given.
“Our study shows that pet owners look to their veterinarians, pet food stores and pet food manufacturers for information on pet food storage. and hygiene guidelines,” Luisana said. Pet food companies that study their foods both under laboratory conditions and in home environments, then provide storage and handling recommendations on labels or websites, would be a good start, a she added.