Nov 21, 2009
THE BELOW LETTER WAS RECENTLY SENT BY ME TO A LOCAL TALK RADIO PERSONALITY, ONE OF WHOSE ADVERTISERS IS A PRODUCER OF RAW, MEAT-BASED DIETS FOR PETS. AS A BLOG ENTRY, THIS IS OF COURSE, MY OPINION., ALBEIT, IT IS AN EVIDENCE-BASED OPINION, DERIVED FROM PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES, ONE OF WHICH IS APPENDED BELOW.
WHILE I RECOGNIZE THAT A MINORITY OF CONSUMERS AND A SMALL MINORITY OF VETERINARIANS MAY FEEL DIFFERENTLY ABOUT RAW MEAT BASED DIETS FOR PETS. FEELINGS ABOUT THE NATURAL WORLD AND THE WAY IT WORKS ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR REAL ATTEMPTS TO UNDERSTAND IT HOWEVER. INDEED IF WE HAVE LEARNED NOTHING OVER THE LAST 2000 YEARS OF CIVILIZATION, IT IS THAT COOKING MEAT TO 164º F INTERNALLY, KILLS PATHOGENIC ORGANISMS AND SAVES LIVES.
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE OPPOSITE APPROACH IS LACKING AND THE SOCIAL MOVEMENT ADVOCATING UNCOOKED ANIMAL DERIVED FOODS HAS FAILED TO ANSWER. THE QUESTIONS ARE: ARE HUMAN LIVES WORTH POLITICALLY "CORRECT" LIFESTYLE CHOICES? SHOULD GOVERNMENT PROTECT PEOPLE FROM THEMSELVES? FROM OTHERS WHO MIGHT MAKE UNWISE CHOICES FOR THEM?
Dear Mr. _____________,
I had the opportunity to hear this morning's segment with your sponsor, __________ As a loyal, long-term listener, I feel it is my duty to bring an important public health concern associated with the feeding of raw meat-based diets to pets. That concern is one that may affect both pets and people to the detriment of both.
As I am sure you have heard, there have been numerous alerts, recalls and reports of food-borne illness reported in the last couple of years, associated with uncooked or undercooked meats served to human consumers in restaurants or sold to them in stores. The under-appreciated truth of our meat production industry, indeed of any nation's meat production, is that absolute certainty of freedom from sickness-causing bacteria in meat cannot be assured. The slaughter process, designed to minimize contamination with animal feces and bacteria to be found within, and in spite of robust USDA imposed safeguards, is not 100% effective and it never will be.
Thus, the final link in a chain that may lead to human (and animal) illness is appropriate cooking of meat, sufficient to kill any disease causing bacteria such as E. Coli 0157 and various Salmonella species that may contaminate animal carcasses. The use of raw meat for direct feeding to pets breaks this final prevention safeguard and puts both people and animals at risk. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, including the vast majority of their individual members, recommend that pet owners do not feed such diets, as the risks are just too high. I emphasize, that while a small minority of veterinarians may disagree, the vast majority of mainstream veterinary doctors do not recommend raw meat diets for animals.
It is true that not every batch, or even many batches of meat may be contaminated sufficiently to cause disease. The problem is the same as in a game of Russian roulette, as you just never know which chamber has a live round nor when a batch will be contaminated. Is that a chance worth taking with your pet's health, for an unproven contention that raw foods are somehow more "natural"? I shouldn't think so. Is it a risk worth taking with your human loved one's?
Indeed, proponents of raw pet food usually cite the fact that wild animals eat raw meat, so therefore so should our pets. The truth is a lot more nuanced.Wild creatures live much shorter lives than do our pets, in a daily contest of survival of the fittest. Most coyotes and wolves, for example, are gone by 7 or 8 years old. Pet dogs and cats, however, are now living into their teens quite commonly. Diet is not the only reason for this, but it does not follow that eating raw meat is a positive factor. Most pet animals are not eating raw diets now and live long anyway. Their safer, indoor lives while eating consistent professionally designed commercial diets are one likely reason. That, and better health care than in decades past is another.
Finally, there is real risk to the consumer with feeding raw meat diets to pets, as hands, counter-tops, utensils and dishes invariably become contaminated with meat juices and thus possibly with bacteria. The most susceptible among us, the very young, the very old, those with immune system suppression due to cancer, chemotherapy, HIV or other illnesses are the most at risk. Is this a gamble we want to take with with loved ones?
Please see the attached AVMA journal article, especially the "Conclusions and Clinical Relevance" section, to find verification for what I am communicating to you. If you are interested in further information, or possibly discussing this issue on the air, please don't hesitate to contact me. I realize the sensitivity of disseminating facts that might embarrass a sponsor, however, food-borne illness is one of the biggest public health issues of our time. Meat contamination is a major element in these episodes. _____, I know you care about your listeners, and about people in general. I’m certain you would not want to be on the wrong side of this issue should a pet, or person, become ill from food-borne illness and the cause is later traced to raw meat diets fed to pets.
For you information, I am a practicing veterinarian very close to completion of a Master's degree in Public Health. Thank you.
Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MS
Enclosure: “Evaluation of bacterial and protozoal contamination of commercially available raw meat diets for dogs”, Strohmeyer et al, JAVMA 2/15/2006 (SEE ABSTRACT, JUST BELOW)
Evaluation of bacterial and protozoal contamination
of commercially available raw meat diets for dogs
Rachel A. Strohmeyer, DVM, MS; Paul S. Morley, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Doreene R. Hyatt, PhD;
David A. Dargatz, DVM, DACVIM; A. Valeria Scorza, VMD, MS; Michael R. Lappin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
Objective—To evaluate bacterial and protozoal contamination
of commercially available raw meat diets for dogs.
Design—Prospective longitudinal study.
Sample Population—240 samples from 20 raw
meat diets for dogs (containing beef, lamb, chicken, or
turkey), 24 samples from 2 dry dog foods, and 24
samples from 2 canned dog foods.
Procedure—Each product was purchased commercially
on 4 dates approximately 2 months apart. Three
samples from each product at each sampling period
were evaluated via bacterial culture for non–type-specific
Escherichia coli (NTSEC), Salmonella enterica,
and Campylobacter spp. Antimicrobial susceptibility
testing was performed on selected isolates.
Polymerase chain reaction assays were used to
detect DNA from Cryptosporidium spp, Neospora
spp, and Toxoplasma spp in samples obtained in the
third and fourth sampling periods.
Results—One hundred fifty-three of 288 (53%) samples
were contaminated with NTSEC. Both raw and
prepared foods contained NTSEC during at least 1 culture
period. Salmonella enterica was recovered from
17 (5.9%) samples, all of which were raw meat products.
Campylobacter spp was not isolated from any
samples. In 91 of 288 (31.6%) samples, there was no
gram-negative bacterial growth before enrichment and
in 48 of 288 (16.7%) samples, there was no aerobic
bacterial growth before enrichment. Susceptibility
phenotypes were variable. Cryptosporidium spp DNA
was detected in 3 samples.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Bacterial
contamination is common in commercially available
raw meat diets, suggesting that there is a risk of
foodborne illness in dogs fed these diets as well possible
risk for humans associated with the dogs or
(J Am Vet Med Assoc 2006;228: 537–542)
From the Animal Population Health Institute (Strohmeyer, Morley,
Hyatt) and the Department of Clinical Sciences (Scorza, Lappin),
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523; and the USDA,
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services,
Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, 2150 Centre
Avenue, Bldg B, Fort Collins, CO 80526 (Dargatz).
Supported by the Animal Population Health Institute through a
grant from the United States Department of Agriculture
Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and
by the James L. Voss Veterinary Medical Center, Colorado State