Nature’s Variety has expanded their recall based on more concerns about Salmonella contamination of their products. In a lot of ways, this makes no sense to me since you have to assume that raw meat is contaminated with Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter and various other pathogens. That’s been clearly shown in studies of raw meat for humans and animals, and that’s why we cook meat intended for human consumption and emphasize good food handling practices. It’s also why there are concerns about feeding raw meat to pets, and the explanation for various studies showing pets fed raw meat have much higher rates of shedding potentially harmful bacteria like SalmonellaYou have to assume that a reasonable percentage of Nature’s Variety’s food has been contaminated with Salmonella, not that this is an uncommon and preventable event.

Because of the problem or consumer concerns, Nature’s Variety has announced that they will be treating all of their diets using high pressure pasteurization. Basically, this process uses very high pressures (with only a slight increase in temperature) to reduce bacterial levels. I can’t find any scientific literature about the effectiveness of this method on Salmonella contamination of raw meat (it’s mainly used with milk and cheese) but it should be able to greatly reduce bacterial levels in meat. That’s a good thing, as long as it works. What’s important to know, however, is whether it is really highly effective in this situation and whether all potentially harmful bacterial will be eliminated every time.

I’m concerned that if people think this food is “sterile” and it’s not, they might not take the necessary food handling precautions. If this method usually, but not always, kills all of the bad bacteria, or if it reduces levels greatly but not completely, then there could still be the risk of infection of people and pets. This information is critical. In the absence of clear scientific data, I think we need to assume that some level of contamination could still be present (although probably much less often and at a much lower level), and make sure that proper food handling practices are used.

It’s good to see this company taking measures to reduce the risks associated with raw meat feeding. Let’s hope that some objective research is made available to indicate what risks might remain.

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