Pet food sickened at least 79 people, CDC says

WASHINGTON Thu Nov 6, 2008 2:56pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Salmonella-contaminated dry pet food sickened at least 79 people, including many young children, and could still be dangerous, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

Even though the affected brands have been recalled and the factory in Pennsylvania closed, pet owners could still have the cat and dog kibble in their homes, the CDC said.

No one is known to have died in the outbreak of a rare strain of Salmonella, known as Salmonella enterica serotype Schwarzengrund, the CDC said. But it can make people ill who handle the pet food, especially the very young and very old, and causes bloody diarrhea. No pets have been reported sickened.

"Dry pet food has a 1-year shelf life. Contaminated products identified in recalls might still be in the homes of purchasers and could cause illness. Persons who have these products should not use them to feed their pets but should discard them or return them to the store," the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.

The brands, made by Mars Petcare U.S., include Special Kitty, Pedigree and Member's Mark, among others. The full list of brands affected was available on www.petcare.mars.com and here

"Mars Petcare U.S. has taken steps to ensure that recalled products are no longer on store shelves. On October 1, the company announced that the Everson (Pennsylvania) plant would be closed permanently," the CDC team wrote.

"Consumers and health departments should be aware that all dry pet food, pet treats, and pet supplements might be contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, and consumers should use precautions with all brands of dry pet food, treats, and supplements," the CDC report reads.

"In contrast, canned pet food is unlikely to be contaminated with such pathogens because the manufacturing process should eliminate bacterial contamination."

The CDC recommends that anyone handling dry pet food wash the hands and keep infants away from it.

(Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Eric Beech)

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