Poop Doggy Dog

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

Recently, I learned that my dog Chloe’s food has been recalled because of potential contamination with Salmonella. The vendor for this particular bag of food, wag.com, emailed to let me know about the recall. The local shop where I sometimes purchase her food is small and does not seem to keep track of its customers—no rewards cards, no phone numbers, no mailers.ashleyheadshot

Wag.com’s email said that Natura, had recalled all of its California Natural, Innova, EVO, Karma and Healthwise dry dog, cat and ferret products, as there had been one case of Salmonella from a 2.2-pound package of EVO Turkey & Chicken cat food. The press release on the Natura site explained that this was an expansion of an earlier recall but that no Salmonella-related illnesses had been found to date. I am still not sure what they meant by case.

I buy 30-pound bags at a time and we are halfway through the bag of California Naturals herring and sweet potato dry dog food. As a precaution, the company is recalling products from December 14, 2012 – March 24, 2013, so this would include the previous, long-consumed bag of food as well.

The wag.com email did not list what symptoms I should be on the look out for – so I called my vet (and searched the Internet). The vet and the interwebs told me to look for lethargy, bloody diarrhea, nausea, and fever My dog, Chloe, has not yet shown any symptoms of illness.

She has already consumed about 15 pounds of this bag and all 30 pounds of the previous bag. Just because she hasn’t shown symptoms doesn’t mean I don’t have a Salmonella bomb in my kitchen. The FDA says that the distribution of the Salmonella may not be homogeneous, meaning that there could be more Salmonella in different parts of the bag. Unfortunately, she’s also had serious gastrointestinal issues in the past, putting her at a greater risk for infection. But there’s also my health to worry about.

Salmonella is zoonotic, so Chloe can give it to me, even if she never shows any symptoms. I could also pick it up by handling the food directly. I wash my hands a lot–though now I question whether I have done it each time I’ve handled the food or scooped up her poop.

IMG_5163I wish the email had been clearer about what had happened, but when I called Natura for a replacement bag of food, they were extremely nice and able to answer my questions. They even agreed to send me a voucher for a new bag without the requisite UPC code, as I no longer have the packaging. Chloe has not shown any symptoms yet, which gives me hope—as does throwing out the remainder of the food. I am glad Natura took the precaution to recall four months of products but I hope that they can figure out how to keep Salmonella out of her food in the first place. She and I shouldn’t be the last line of defense.

Ashley Chaifetz studies how the government influences what we eat (and keeps it safe), consumes too many carrots, and survived Campylobacter in 2011.

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About Ben Chapman

Dr. Ben Chapman is a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. As a teenager, a Saturday afternoon viewing of the classic cable movie, Outbreak, sparked his interest in pathogens and public health. With the goal of less foodborne illness, his group designs, implements, and evaluates food safety strategies, messages, and media from farm-to-fork. Through reality-based research, Chapman investigates behaviors and creates interventions aimed at amateur and professional food handlers, managers, and organizational decision-makers; the gate keepers of safe food. Ben co-hosts a biweekly podcast called Food Safety Talk and tries to further engage folks online through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and, maybe not surprisingly, Pinterest. Follow on Twitter @benjaminchapman.