The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) have issued warnings about frozen beef pet food made by Surrey Meat Packers of Cloverdale, BC. The Beef Pet Food consisted of frozen 500 g blocks of beef (presumably raw) sold between October 8 and 23, that may contain E. coli O157.

This is a bigger concern that the periodic Salmonella recalls that have affected both raw and cooked pet foods. Salmonella is an important cause of disease, but E. coli O157 is a particularly nasty bug. This bacterium can cause very serious disease in people, including hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening problem that can lead to kidney failure. The infectious dose is very low – all it takes is ingestion of a small number of bacteria for disease to develop. Risks to people from this recall mainly involve the potential for cross-contamination with human food or inadvertent ingestion of E. coli O157 from pet food via contaminated hands. Transmission of E. coli O157 from dogs to humans has been reported, but is probably quite rare.

The health impact of E. coli O157 in dogs is less clear. Experimental infection of dogs with the bacterium has resulted in disease, but studies of naturally occurring diarrhea have not provided convincing evidence that it is a significant cause of illness in dogs.

No illnesses have been reported in association with this batch of contaminated meat. Given that the contaminated meat was sold until October 23 (a few weeks ago), it’s likely that most of the meat has already been consumed at this point. However, people who have purchased this product and still have some sitting in the freezer should check it. Affected product may not have a label indicating a packing or best before date, in which case you should assume it’s contaminated (better safe than sorry). Any meat from that period (or of unknown history) should be discarded.

This is yet another important reminder of the fact that raw meat products can easily be contaminated with various pathogenic bacteria. People who choose to feed raw meat to their pets must ensure that they take careful precautions to reduce the risk of human infection from cross-contamination or contact with pet feces. More information about raw meat feeding can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page.