Pet treats and pet food can be contaminated with Salmonella and other pathogens, though they are infrequently implicated as the source of human outbreaks.
Case-patients were interviewed with standardized questionnaires to assess food, animal, and social histories. Laboratory and environmental investigations were conducted, including testing of clinical specimens, implicated product, and environmental swabs. Between June and October 2013, a total of 43 ill persons were identified. Sixteen patients (37%) were hospitalized.
Among 43 case-patients interviewed, the proportion exposed to dogs (95%) and pet treats (69%) in the 7 days prior to illness was statistically higher than among participants in a U.S. population-based telephone survey (61%, p<0.0001 and 16%, p<0.0001, respectively). On further interview, 38 (88%) reported exposure to Brand X Chicken Jerky, the maker of Brand X chicken jerky, or the facility in which it was made. Product testing isolated the outbreak strain from four of four Brand X Chicken Jerky samples, including an unopened package purchased at retail, opened packages collected from patient households, and unpackaged jerky obtained from the jerky maker.
A site visit revealed inadequate processing of the chicken jerky, bare-hand contact with the finished product prior to packaging, and use of vacuum-sealed packaging, which may have enabled facultative anaerobic bacteria to proliferate. Seven (78%) of nine environmental swabs taken during the site visit also yielded the outbreak strain. Brand X Chicken Jerky was voluntarily recalled on September 9, 2013.
Consumers should be made aware of the potential for locally made products to be exempt from regulation and for animals and animal food to carry pathogens that cause human illness, and be educated to perform hand hygiene after handling pet food or treats.
Human Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Associated With Exposure to Locally Made Chicken Jerky Pet Treats, New Hampshire, 2013
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease
Cavallo Steffany J., Daly Elizabeth R., Seiferth John, Nadeau Alisha M., Mahoney Jennifer, Finnigan Jayne, Wikoff Peter, Kiebler Craig A., and Simmons Latoya