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One of the Dirtiest Things in the House

What’s the most contaminated thing in most households?   You might guess cellphone, remote, keyboard, dish sponge, even the toothbrush holder or money. 

But what about your pet’s food bowl?  How often does that get rinsed and run through the dishwasher?

Maybe you haven’t thought about it much and studies bear that out.  Pet food bowls are the third most contaminated items in homes.  They are breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria including E. coli, listeria, salmonella and MRSA.  If ever you wondered what that slimy coating is on the dishes, or what that biofilm contains – it’s pathogens that can cause severe illness in pets and people, especially for those with compromised immune systems.  Those germy gremlins thrive in water at room temperature.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, the vast majority of us pet owners are not washing our pet’s dishes – or even our hands or the counter where the pet’s food is prepared! FDA recommendations are to wash dishes, scoops or utensils, and any trays or mats your pet uses in hot, soapy water, and then soak them in a water and bleach solution for 10 minutes, leaving them to air dry.  Or, to run them through the dishwasher separately on the sanitize setting.  The FDA recommends you always use a separate sponge from the one you use to wash your family dishes to avoid cross-contamination.  It’s recommended that the water bowl be washed at least daily as well as the food bowl.  That sponge should go in the dishwasher regularly, too!

Stainless steel bowls are tough and sturdy, and easily cleaned, so they are an excellent choice for food and water bowls.  Ceramic and plastic bowls harbor far more bacteria than metal bowls do. 

Here are a few other tips from the FDA for your consideration:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling your pet’s food
  • If you don’t store food in the bag it came in, save the UPC barcode and expiration date of the product until the food is gone.  This is critical information to have in the event of a food recall or if your pet gets sick from their food or treats
  • Only use storage containers with tight-fitting lids
  • Clean storage containers before refilling
  • Store dry food below 80 degrees F, and refrigerate wet food below 40 degrees F

Food safety extends not just to what you feed yourself, but also what you feed your pet.  Be sure to use clean bowls to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in your family or your pet.

On a Side Note …

If your pet has a health problem related to pet food or treats, stop feeding the product and call your veterinarian. The FDA encourages you to report complaints about pet food or treats to both the FDA and the manufacturer of the product. You can report complaints to FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator

To report a Pet Food Complaint:

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