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Food Safety: Handling Raw Diets

Homemade diets and raw feeding were strongly discouraged when I was in veterinary school, and unfortunately most veterinarians are still indoctrinated with this bias.  Bacterial food poisoning and an unbalanced diet (e.g. all-meat Calcium-deficient diets) do pose real risks.  If you have a household with very young, very old, or otherwise immune-compromised humans, a raw diet for your pets may not be a good fit.


However, I do see dogs, cats, and ferrets improve tremendously in their health when switched to a raw food diet, a low-carbohydrate diet, or when fresh real foods are added to their meals.  Many of the pet food recalls have been for Salmonella contamination of kibble, so the idea that commercial processed food is the safest option is no longer a secure assumption.



Use the same safe handling techniques for your pet's raw food as you already use for handling raw meat in your own kitchen:


  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods in your grocery cart, shopping bags, and refrigerator


  • Wash hands before preparing food and after handling raw meat


  • Sanitize cutting boards, knives, food bowls, and countertops that come into contact with raw meat.  Use a solution of bleach (1 teaspoon bleach per 1 quart of water), sanitizing wipes, or a spray of 3% hydrogen peroxide followed by a spray of white or apple cider vinegar


  • Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator, not on the countertop


  • Store ground meat or poultry only 1-2 days in the refrigerator


  • Limit time spent processing/on the counter. Discard raw meat that has been stored at room temperature for more than 1 hour







Citation and Information Credit:

1. Peters, D., S.S. Sumner, et al. 1996. Control of pathogenic bacteria on fresh produce, a paper (abstract #168) presented in Seattle on July 2 at the 83rd annual meeting of International Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians



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