A raw meat-based diet (RMBD), also known as Bones and Raw Food (BARF), contains a number of parasites and bacteria that could be passed on to humans, say researchers from the Institute of Risk Assessment at Utrecht University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. Earlier analyses on raw pet food in the United States also found similar levels of contamination. The two types of Sarcocystes parasites found in the products do not affect people but pose a risk to farm animals.
By feeding this diet to pets, owners are not only risking the health of the animals but also their own health.
This isn't the first time researchers have warned pet owners against raw meat-based diets.
Researchers said these raw meat foods should be labeled to reflect their potential risks, which include cross contamination with human foods or pathogen shedding by pets - both of which could be harmful to people. The study, led by Professor Paul Overgaauw from Utrecht University and published in the Vet Record, has found that raw meats can easily become contaminated with bacteria and parasites.
Four products contained the parasite Sarcocystis cruzi and another four contained Sarcocystis tenella, both of which can cause nausea, stomach ache and diarrhea.
It said the pathogens can be transferred "through direct contact with the food; through contact with a contaminated pet, such as sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands; through contact with household surfaces; or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food".
The results reveal that 23% of the products tested contained a type of E coli that can cause renal failure in humans, while 80% of products across seven brands contained antibiotic-resistant E coli. "I think that in the US especially, owners are much more liking the convenience, and buy these products instead of preparing raw food on their own".
Things are probably better if you only purchase meat intended for human consumption, as the hygiene requirements for producing that are usually stricter than for the giblets, entrails, and other byproducts deemed suitable for raw pet food.
He said new PFMA guidelines set out how to handle raw meat hygienically.
Previous year a charitable scheme which sends dogs into schools to help children read, Burns By Your Side, announced it had banned the use of animals fed on raw meats because of the health risk to children.
"As an evidence-based working veterinarian, I don't support these products", he says-not only because of the risk of infection, but because not all of them offer complete and balanced nutrients that dogs and cats need to grow and stay healthy.