UK- Rising levels of salmonella in raw meat-based pet food are causing significant concern in the United Kingdom, posing a potentially serious risk to both animals and humans, according to data from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

According to the APHA report, the number of reported Salmonella cases related to pet food surged from 295 instances in 2021 to 406 in 2022. The data further disclosed that 123 isolations of regulated serovars occurred in 2022, up from 71 the previous year. 

The most commonly identified Salmonella strains were Salmonella Indiana, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Typhimurium, and Salmonella Derby.

Raw meat pet food, which does not undergo any heat treatment to deactivate pathogens, may represent a potential source of infection to both the animals consuming it and the people who handle it, especially if insufficient hygiene methods are adopted. 

This alarming increase in salmonella cases has raised concerns regarding the transmission of the bacteria from pets to humans and its potential onward transmission to other livestock species.

The report also highlighted the presence of multi-drug resistant strains, including those resistant to antibiotics of last resort, in cats, dogs, and raw pet food. Such findings intensify worries about the spread of salmonella and the potential implications for public health.

In a related incident last month, a raw animal feed manufacturer from Wales was prosecuted after salmonella and other bacteria were identified in their products above permitted limits. This case underscores the urgency of addressing this issue.

Looking across the broader feed sector, the data from APHA showed that there were 801 isolations of Salmonella from feedingstuffs during 2022, including 110 from compound feeds and 691 from feed ingredients or products associated with testing under Animal By-Products Regulations. This represented a 4.1% decrease compared with 2021 but a rise of 6% compared to 2020 figures.

There were 187 isolations of regulated Salmonella serovars from animal feedingstuffs and related products, marking a 51% increase compared to 2021 and a 75% surge compared to 2020. The most reported serovars from animal feedingstuffs and compound feed during 2022 were S. Kedougou (68), S. Infantis (61), and S. Typhimurium (53).

The livestock sector also showed variations in salmonella isolations, with numbers being similar in the pig sector as in 2021, 17.5% lower in the cattle sector, and a notable 35% decrease in the sheep sector. 

In the poultry sector, including both the National Control Programme (NCP) and non-statutory surveillance data, there were just over 2,400 isolations, a significant increase from the 1,671 recorded in 2021.

The estimated prevalence of regulated serovars in all three chicken NCPs was found to be below the EU targets set for breeders, layers, and broilers, indicating that salmonella remains a concerning issue across various sectors of the UK’s agriculture and pet food industries.

As salmonella continues to pose a growing concern in the UK, authorities, pet owners, and manufacturers are being urged to take comprehensive measures to ensure the safety of pets and the public. 

This includes enforcing strict hygiene practices and conducting thorough testing of raw meat-based pet food products to mitigate the risk of infection and potential harm to animals and humans.