Several food recalls have been making news recently, and even pets have not escaped. On July 26, Biggers & Callam LLC, which operates under the name Mice Direct, recalled frozen reptile feed, which consists of mice, chicks and rats, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. FDA sampling of the company's frozen mice detected Salmonella, and the investigation is continuing.
The risk is not, of course, that pet owners will eat these products, but that they may not thoroughly wash their hands after handling the frozen animals or any surfaces that the reptile food may have touched. This is not simply a theoretical risk. Human illnesses potentially related to frozen reptile feed have been reported in 17 states. Snakes may become infected after eating tainted mice, although the snakes may show no signs of illness. Handling infected snake also puts pet owners at risk. In humans, salmonella typically can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps, and can lead to death in rare cases.
The recalled product was distributed in all states, excluding Hawaii, through pet stores and direct mail. FDA and Mice Direct have both cautioned that the recalled product should not be fed to reptiles, even after heating in a microwave, because the heating may not be sufficient to kill Salmonella. Mice Direct, located in Cleveland, Georgia, will now begin irradiating its reptile food to eliminate Salmonella and other pathogens that may be present in its products.
This is not the first Salmonella outbreak linked to Mice Direct. Beginning in August 2008, more than 400 illnesses in Great Britain have implicated Mice Direct product, about two-thirds of them have been children under 10. Although the shipments of tainted mice were halted last year, people continue to get sick there because the bacteria may still exist in infected pets or the mice small still be in freezers.
Nor is this the first Salmonella outbreak linked to pet food or even to reptiles. As recently as July 25, Procter & Gamble Company recalled two lots of prescription renal dry cat food due to concerns of potential Salmonella contamination. Salmonella outbreaks have also been traced to pet turtles and to frogs.