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New FDA Warning Nothing Short of Miraculous, Considering the Facts

January 24, 2014

Story at-a-glance

  • The FDA is the latest organization to issue an absurd warning to pet owners to avoid the “dangers” of raw pet food. The basis for the warning is a two-year “study” the agency conducted of 1,000 samples of pet food to check for bacteria that causes foodborne illness.
  • According to the FDA’s study results, the only pet foods that tested positive for salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes were commercial raw pet foods. Incredibly, the FDA expects us to believe that during the two-year period between July 2010 and July 2012, only one out of 860 processed pet food samples tested positive for bacteria.
  • A quick glance at the FDA’s own website shows dozens of processed pet food recalls during the same two-year period, yet the FDA’s sampling turned up only one incidence of bacterial contamination.
  • Like the AVMA, the AAHA and other organizations that have taken a public stand against raw pet food diets, the FDA is sadly misinformed about the types of raw food currently on the market. Many raw pet diets these days have been treated with high-pressure pasteurization (HPP), rendering them sterile. For organizations or pet owners who don’t understand the benefits of raw diets but still want to promote unprocessed food, sterile raw foods provide superior nutritional benefits to entirely processed diets.
  • The anti-raw movement also conveniently overlooks the fact that pet owners have been feeding raw diets to their dogs and cats for decades, yet to date, not one documented case of raw pet food causing illness in humans has been reported.

By Dr. Becker

Recently the FDA issued an outrageous warning to pet owners on its website that is oh-so-subtly titled, “Get the Facts! Raw Pet Food Diets can be Dangerous to You and Your Pet.1 The warning cites a two-year “study” the FDA conducted in which the agency screened over 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that causes foodborne illness.

Curiously, according to the FDA, the only pet foods during that two-year sampling period that turned up positive for bacteria were commercial raw pet foods. According to their study results, out of 196 samples of raw food tested, 15 were positive for salmonella, and 32 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. But out of the 860 samples of processed foods -- including “dry exotic” pet food, jerky treats, semi-moist dog and cat food, and dry dog and cat food -- just one lonely sample showed positive for bacteria. Just one.

So during their two-year study that ran from approximately July 2010 through July 2012, they found ZERO bacteria of concern in any of the processed pet food samples they tested? That is nothing short of miraculous given the number of recalls during the same period.

A cursory glance at the FDA website lists 13 pet food recalls from July 2010 through December 2010, seven of which were clearly due to salmonella contamination. In 2011, the FDA lists 18 recalls, seven for salmonella. And from January to July 2012, there were 16 recalls, 9 for salmonella contamination. Also interesting is the fact that none of those recalls were for commercial raw pet foods.

Given these facts, how can anyone take the FDA’s “study” and its warning about “dangerous” raw pet foods seriously? What is the FDA hoping to accomplish with this misguided effort? I’d like to suggest they redirect their reportedly meager resources toward warning pet owners about the imported jerky treats that have been poisoning and killing dogs for nearly a decade.

The Anti-Raw Movement: Misinformed or Deliberately Deceitful?

Like other oversight organizations that have taken a very public stand against raw pet food diets, it would appear the FDA is also woefully uninformed about the types of raw food currently on the market.

There is a whole class of raw foods currently available that are sterile at the time of purchase. Just as much of the human meat supply has been treated with a sterilization technique called high pressure pasteurization (HPP), many raw commercially available pet foods have also opted for this sterilization technique to reduce potential pathogens.

As for “non-sterile” raw diets (which healthy pets should be consuming)… most adults understand that handling raw meat carries the potential for contact with pathogens, which is why appropriate sanitary measures are important whether you’re handling your pet’s raw food or your own. These risks are no different than the risks of handling burgers prior to grilling them, or making fresh chicken soup for your family.

Despite the inherent risks associated with handling raw meat, pet owners have been feeding raw diets to their dogs and cats for decades, yet to date, not one documented case of raw pet food causing illness in humans has been reported.

If you’re already successfully feeding your pet a raw diet, I hope you will disregard the FDA’s ill-informed warning and continue to offer your dog or cat real, fresh, living foods.

If you’re interested in feeding raw or learning more about it, there are many informative videos and articles here at Mercola Healthy Pets. A good place to start is my 3-part video series on raw diets for pets:

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