Source: Food Safety News (Extract)
Posted: November 15, 2023

Canadian officials report that an outbreak of Salmonella infections in people has been traced to raw pet food and possibly contact with cattle.

The Public Health Agency of Canada just released information about the outbreak, which began in July 2020. Since then, 40 people have been confirmed to be infected with the Salmonella I outbreak strain 4,[5],12:i:-.

Thirteen of the patients have been so sick that they required hospitalization. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 91 years old. Almost half of the sick people are children 5 years old and younger.

The most recent person to be confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- became ill in September this year. The outbreak strain is extensively drug-resistant, meaning infections from it may be difficult to treat with commonly recommended antibiotics, according to the public health agency.

“Using a laboratory method called whole genome sequencing, it was determined that the same outbreak strain caused some Salmonella illnesses dating back to 2020 as those in 2023. More recent illnesses may (still) be reported in the outbreak because there is a period between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported to public health officials. The illness reporting period for this outbreak is between 4 and 8 weeks,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The agency has identified raw meat prepared for pets and contact with cattle — particularly calves — as the Salmonella sources. However, the agency did not report the kind of raw pet food implicated. The agency said that a single ordinary raw pet food supplier has not been identified.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella confirmed in the patients was found in raw pet food from the home of an ill individual. This outbreak strain of Salmonella has also been found in sick dogs and cattle, and some of the animals have died.

The sick people live in six Canadian provinces. Those provinces and the number of confirmed patients there are Manitoba with 1, Ontario 14, Quebec 21, New Brunswick 1, Nova Scotia 2, and Prince Edward Island 1. 

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate the outbreak. The collaborative outbreak investigation was initiated because of increased reports of XDR Salmonella illnesses in multiple jurisdictions across Canada.

About Salmonella infections in people

Food and feeds contaminated with Salmonella bacteria do not look, smell, or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone exposed to raw pet food or cattle who developed Salmonella infection symptoms should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients require hospitalization.

Older adults, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

Some people get infected without getting sick or showing any symptoms. However, they may still spread the infections to others.

Raw pet food

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends against feeding raw pet food to pets, especially in households with young children or individuals with a compromised immune system, as they are at greater risk for more serious illness.

  • Harmful germs such as Salmonella and E.coli have been found in commercially prepared raw pet food and treats and can be found in many raw meats and products used in homemade pet diets.
  • Animals fed raw pet food are more likely to shed harmful germs through their feces than those fed exclusively kibble or cooked diets, even when they appear healthy.
  • When deciding what to feed pets, people should talk to their veterinarians first.

If you choose to feed your pet raw pet food, the following tips may help reduce the risk of a Salmonella infection:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after feeding, playing, handling or cleaning up after pets.
  • Wash and sanitize any containers, utensils and surfaces that have come into contact with raw pet food before using them again. This includes food and water bowls, countertops, microwaves, and refrigerators.
  • Use dedicated dishes and utensils to serve pets and wash them separately from other dishes and utensils.
  • Store all pet food and treats away from where human food is stored or prepared and away from reach of young children. Pick up treats and food bowls when your pet is done with them.
  • Raw pet food may need to be stored frozen or refrigerated. If thawing raw food:
    • Keep pets’ food away from human food
    • Please place it in a sealed, clean container that will hold any juices that may leak out
    • Thaw only as much as needed
    • Thaw on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator
    • Do not re-freeze food after thawing

  • Don’t let your dog lick your face, mouth, or open wounds.

Contact with Cattle

  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch cattle or anything in the areas where they live, roam, or eat. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.
  • If visiting a farm or petting zoo, wash your hands when you leave animal areas, even if you did not touch the animals directly.
  • Do not eat or drink around cattle. Keep food and drinks away from animal areas.
  • Always supervise children around animals, such as cattle. Do not let children put their fingers or objects such as like pacifiers in their mouths when they are around animals or in an animal area.