Is Raw Dog Food Safe?

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Several people have emailed me in the last week with questions regarding the recent ABC article about raw meat pet food. It’s the latest “anti-raw” article in the news so I thought I’d comment on it for those interested.

The article discusses a new study which indicates that raw pet food can have high levels of bacteria which may be potentially harmful to people and pets. The study is behind a paywall so it is difficult to evaluate beyond how it is reported in the article.

The ABC piece is headlined "Raw meat pet food may not be good for you — or your dog”, which seems to be pretty unhelpful straight out of the gate. It’s either an overreach - the study only refers to “pet meat” but generalises to all raw dog food - or it’s a highly ambiguous statement that could apply to everything. Of course literally anything MAY not be good for you under certain conditions. We need better reporting rather than clickbait headlines to have a rational discussion.

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The article is essentially saying that raw pet meats may contain bacteria and therefore should be handled with care OR are too dangerous to feed, depending on how you read it. I will look at each of these ideas in turn.

The first statement is that safe food handling practices are necessary when handling raw pet food.

From the study abstract:

“These results show that it is critical to maintain good hygiene when storing, handling and feeding RMBD, in order to limit the potential health risks to animals and humans, especially young and immunocompromised individuals.”

I don’t think anyone is disagreeing with this. Of course safe food practices need to be employed when handling any raw meat. This applies to raw human food as well as raw dog food.

It’s important information. But it’s not really news, is it.

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The other argument is that raw dog food can contain bacteria so may not safe to feed.

From the article:

“Other bacteria found in some of the samples, such as Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens and Campylobacter, are considered potentially pathogenic, which means they can cause serious illness in both animals and humans.

Would you eat that?”

Well, exactly! I wouldn’t eat it and I wouldn’t feed it to Nelly either.

Keep in mind this study is referring to pet-grade meat, which is a by-product of the meat industry. It is essentially all the bits that humans won’t eat. Pet-grade meat is a substantially lower quality than human-grade meat, and it isn’t subjected to that same standards or testing.

This is one key reason why the quality of ingredients matters.

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Beyond quality issues, there is also the idea that raw food is somehow less safe than dry food. If you take pet food recalls as a baseline for safety, they are overwhelmingly for dry and canned foods. There has only been one reported case of raw dog food potentially causing harm in people, and that is in the US not Australia.

Compare this with over 130 cases of dry dog food causing harm in people, alongside further mass-recalls due to elevated levels of Vitamin D and contamination with melamine. It seems to me that the reporting is heavily biased in favour of industrial pet foods. Based on the real life data (1 vs 130+ cases) you can make a pretty strong argument that raw food is significantly safer than kibble.

Where is the news article saying this?

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In my opinion people should be able to eat their dogs dinner if they want to. Dogs are not waste disposal units, they are animals. We shouldn’t be using them to get rid of the waste products of the meat industry. Certainly the best nutrition for dogs does not come from these sources.

It’s important to note that while risks are significantly lower in human grade food they are still present.

The reality is that safety is an issue for all meat products. This means whether they are for humans or dogs, there is always some level of risk involved. It is clearly possible that raw dog food contains pathogens, as does dry dog food, as does supermarket meat. Choosing a dog food made with human-grade ingredients, processed in a human-grade facility is the best way to minimise these risks.

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At Whoa Nelly! we produce our food in a human-grade facility (a commercial kitchen) with human-grade ingredients. We have the same accreditation a butcher or supermarket has with Safe Food Queensland. Most people are happy having a raw chicken or steak in their fridge. Our human-grade dog food presents the same low level of risk.

The ABC article is absolutely on point with it’s safety recommendations. All raw meat, whether it is for you or your pup should be handled with care. Store raw dog food at the bottom of the fridge (away from veggies), and only defrost what you need. Wash your hands after touching any raw meat, and avoid doggie kisses after meal time. It’s really that simple, and that common sense!

No wonder there are zero cases of humans getting sick from raw dog food in Australia.

Jimi WallComment