FDA to test pet food for salmonella

The Food and Drug Administration is now testing pet food for salmonella.

But the tests are not targetted at stemming outbreaks among dogs and cats, rather the agency is seeking to prevent the spread of the bacteria to humans.

And no, not because pet owners are snacking on kibble.

Salmonella is usually transmitted by eating contaminated food, but there have been outbreaks reported among people handling pet food and then putting their contaminated hands in their mouths. A particularly nasty outbreak occurred in 2006-2007 when 70 people were sickened by dog food produced in Pennsylvania.

Dow Jones reports that in October the FDA began taking samples of dry pet food, pet treats and diet supplements from distributors, wholesalers and retailers like PetSmart, PetCo, WalMart, Costco, Sam's Club and Target for testing.

The FDA said in a memorandum released this week that it is "particularly concerned about salmonella being transmitted to humans through pet foods, pet treats, and supplements for pets that are intended to be fed to animals in homes, where they are likely to be directly handled or ingested by humans."

Salmonella usually makes people sick for four to seven days without the need for hospitalization, but the bacteria can spread from a person's intestines to the blood stream and other parts of the body. Antibiotic-resistant forms of salmonella have become a major health risk leading to hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The year-long testing program not only covers dog and cat food but also feed for rabbits, reptiles, birds, aquarium fish and rodents such as hamsters, mice and guinea pigs.