Pedigree pet food and pregnancy: Managing cross-contamination risks at home

I am now 6 ½ months pregnant and still somewhat peacefully coexisting with our four pets. But pregnancy has meant giving special attention to handwashing and avoiding cross-contamination.
Although I thought I was being overly cautious, on Sept. 13 Pedigree small crunchy bites and Pedigree large breed complete nutrition dry pet food products were recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination (see This appears to be the same food we feed our dogs and I know one of them was throwing up outside yesterday. Of course … she also likes to eat grass and other vomitous materials.

In addition to pet food which may contain pathogens, I pay close attention to the handling of dog treats which have been found problematic in the past. Our dogs have been getting their fill of bones lately because we haven’t had the usual time and energy to devote to their exercise. I try to avoid touching the dog bones when I take them out of the package and I wash the scissors I use to cut the packages open. I always wash my hands afterwards.

It really isn’t easy to think about washing hands every time you feed and pet the dogs, but the following are things I am trying to do to keep me and my future baby safe:

  • regularly wash the dog dishes
  • wash my hands every time I fill the dog water and food bowls (the dogs eat and drink, spreading any microbes from one bowl to the next)
  • wash my hands after opening treats and/or giving them to the dogs
  • wash the scissors after opening treat bags
  • wash my hands after playing with the pets
  • avoid letting the dogs lick my face of hands
  • wipe down the counter where pet treats have touched

These steps are all much more difficult for me than they sound. I’m usually very playful and affectionate with my pets, even though I no longer allow the dogs on the bed or couch. It’s also very difficult to think about handwashing when you are out on a walk with the dogs and give them treats as part of a training process. In those cases I just remind myself not to touch my face or use a wet wipe when I have one handy.

I am still learning after years of taking it for granted that my dogs’ food was safe. Food safety, even for pets, is not simple.

For human symptoms of salmonella poisoning, check out

According to an article in the North Country Gazette (April 3, 2007) related to a past pet food recall:

Pets with salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Apparently well animals can be a carrier and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian

Botulism in Companeros enchiladas … in France

I didn’t know French people had discovered enchiladas, and much less those you can buy in the grocery store. That’s one food I often crave when traveling for an extended period in France, and it’s my standby order at my first visit to any Mexican restaurant. But obviously someone in France is buying enchiladas because two people are now reported in serious but stable condition in a French hospital after eating Companeros brand chicken enchiladas. Several of the national ministries have issued a recall of all enchilada and fajita products from Companeros, regardless of the expiration date. Apparently the source of the Clostridium botulinum bacteria is not yet completely identified as the recall requests that people do not discard the meals. Instead, they should be returned to the store so that further analysis can take place.

In case you’re paranoid, like I am, about getting botulism or other illnesses, there are a few facts you should know…

  • Symptoms occur on average between 6 and 36 hours (and not more than 15 days) after consumption of the contaminated food
  • Botulism can cause serious complications such as paralysis and death
  • Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing or speaking, facial weakness, double vision, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and paralysis 
  • Botulism commonly grows at room temperature in an anaerobic environment – that means when food is deprived of air. Risky foods include potatoes left in aluminum foil at room temperature
  • In 2006, 7 people were stricken due to botulism in bottled carrot juice
  • Botulism cannot be transmitted between humans

Check out the FDA’s Bad Bug Book for more detailed botulism information.

Salmonella Symptoms

Someone came to the blog this morning searching “Salmonella Saintpaul flatulence” inspiring this post. As of last night 138 people in 11 states were sick from Salmonella in tomatoes.

According to, Salmonella can cause gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, and bacteremia. The following are symptoms of Salmonella gastroenteritis:

  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • fever, generally 100°F to 102°F (38°C to 39°C)
  • nausea, and/or
  • vomiting

In mild cases diarrhea may be non-bloody, occur several times per day, and not be very voluminous; in severe cases it may be frequent, bloody and/or mucoid, and of high volume. Vomiting is less common than diarrhea.

Other frequently reported symptoms are

  • headaches
  • muscle pain, and
  • joint pain

Whereas the diarrhea typically lasts 24 to 72 hours, patients often report fatigue and other nonspecific symptoms lasting 7 days or longer.

The FDA has a thorough analysis of Salmonella in their Bad Bug Book.

If you are concerned that you have food poisoning, you should contact your local health unit or Seattle law firm Marler-Clark that specializes in foodborne illness litigation.