The American Veterinary Medical Association is scheduled to vote on August 2 or 3, 2012, on a policy advocating against raw pet foods "to mitigate public health risks."
The AVMA cites 6 studies for this position, without comment; it does not summarize the information it finds most compelling. So, we must read the studies to understand why it is proposing this policy as a public health measure.
The full text of 3 of the 6 studies can be found free, online. None of them indicate actual public health incidents resulting from the feeding of raw meat to pets.
Preliminary assessment of the risk of Salmonella infection in dogs fed raw chicken diets - 2002
This study included 20 dogs, 10 fed a commercial kibble and 10 fed a raw food diet based on BARF.
3 of the 10 dogs fed the raw diet tested positive for Salmonella. 8 of the 10 raw food diets tested positive for Salmonella. Only one of the 10 dogs tested positive for the same type (serovar) of Salmonella as was found in the food sample tested.
Despite the positive tests for Salmonella in the raw pet food and pet fecal samples, there is no report of human illness linked to this contamination.
None of the kibbles tested positive for Salmonella, nor did the stool samples of the 10 dogs fed the kibble.
Human health implications of Salmonella-contaminated natural pet treats and raw pet food - 2006
Following are some direct quotes from the study:
- "The increasing popularity of raw food diets for companion animals is another potential pet-associated source of Salmonella organisms; however, no confirmed cases of human salmonellosis have been associated with these diets."
- "To date, there have been no published reports of salmonellosis occurring in dogs as a result of exposure to natural pet treats."
- "To date, there has been only one published report of salmonellosis occurring in cats as a result of exposure to raw food diets. Septicemic salmonellosis was diagnosed in 2 cats that underwent necropsy at the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia (Athens, GA)."
- "To date, raw pet foods have not been associated with salmonellosis in humans; however, identification of Salmonella-contaminated food and Salmonella shedding by pets that have been fed raw food diets should raise concern."
- "Although natural pet treats and raw food diets are made from animal by-products, they are not considered to be “fit for human consumption,” and, as such, they are not subject to the same regulations as is food intended for humans."
This last comment is factually incorrect and displays a gross misunderstanding of the commercial raw pet food industry.. Many, or most, commercial raw pet foods are not made from animal by products, but from meat which could be cooked and fed to humans. Many or most people who buy meat from the grocery store to feed to their pets buy human grade meat which they could also prepare for human consumption.
Bacteriological evaluation of commercial canine and feline raw diets. - 2005
This study finds a variety of coliforms, a broad group of bacteria, some of which are and some of which are not dangerous to people or pets. That raw meat contains pathogens is not in question, the question is the risk this poses to public health when it is used for pet food. This study does not provide any indication that it is or is not a risk.
The texts of the following studies are not available online to the general public. The website Little Big Cat has analyzed these studies.
Septicemic Salmonellosis in Two Cats Fed a Raw-Meat Diet - 2003
Public health concerns associated with feeding raw meat diets to dogs. - 2001
From the website Little Big Cat:
Campylobacter. AVMA’s reference on Campylobacter examines the public health risks of feeding raw diets to dogs.[vii] As evidence, this review cites a Hungarian study that included free-roaming dogs with access to aborted livestock fetuses and raw poultry that were found to be contaminated withCampylobacter. One person became sick, but it is unknown whether or not he handled infected tissues.
Evaluation of raw food diets for dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc - 2001