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Report: Kids sickened by recalled pet food

August 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Researchers are warning parents to keep their children away from pet food and pet feeding areas, because the first known salmonella outbreak in humans linked to dry pet food has been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study, which looked at an outbreak of contaminated pet food between 2006 and 2008. The food sickened 79 people across 21 states. Nearly half of those cases involved children under the age of two.

While animals were not sickened by the salmonella, young children were sickened after touching kibble, food dishes, or water dishes and then putting their hands in their mouths.

Flavor enhancers that are sprayed on dog and cat food after the heating process is done can contaminate the pellets. At least half a dozen pet food recalls have already been issued this year.

Pediatricians are concerned with not only the food, but also the water bowl, the food dish, and the mats that owners feed their dogs and cats on.

Experts said all of that needs to be clean and children, especially those under 5 years old, need to be kept away.

"It's not hard for pet food to become contaminated with salmonella. Just last week two of the most popular pet foods on the market, Iams and Eukanuba, voluntarily recalled a number of their products due to the possibility of salmonella contamination so it's something closely watched by the industry," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC news senior health and medical editor.

One parent said she already keeps her kids away from the dog food.

"My kids don't normally handle the dog food anyway, but knowing there's a specific danger, I definitely would take more care in separating them from [the dog's] food," said Jennifer Wilhelm.

Some pet owners weren't too alarmed with the study, and said they will stick to their dog and cat feeding routines.

"I scoop my kibble with my scooper, because I don't want to handle it with my hands but not because I'm scared of salmonella," said dog owner Donna Southwood.

Despite the recent pet food recalls, there have been no new reports of illness in Southern California.

Here's what you can do to reduce chances of your children getting sick:

-wash hands after contact with pets, food

-routinely clean pet food bowls

-wash them in separate sink or tub you don't use to wash human dishes

-keep children, especially those under the age of 5, away from pet food

-avoid bathing infants in kitchen sink


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