Safe handling of pet food and pet treats

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Commercially prepared pet food and treats can provide nutritious diets and delicious rewards for pets, but it’s important to handle them with health and safety in mind. That’s because—just like people food—they sometimes may be contaminated with bacteria like Salmonella or Listeria, which can cause serious illness in both the pets that eat them and the people who handle the food and treats.

Animals that become infected after eating contaminated food also may pose a risk to the people with whom they come in contact. The people most at risk from these infections are the young, elderly, pregnant, and immune-compromised.

Contamination is especially a concern when it comes to raw food products, but can happen with cooked/processed products as well. Fortunately, there are simple precautions pet owners can take to minimize the risk of illness from contaminated pet food and treats in both their pets and themselves.


  • Purchase only products that are in good condition at the time of sale. Avoid packages that are damaged, such as dented cans or ripped and torn bags.


  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with clean running water and soap after handling pet food and treats. Use hand sanitizer when handwashing isn’t an option.
  • Wash pet food and water bowls, scoops, feeding mats, and other items used in feeding your pet frequently. Use hot, soapy water.
  • Use a dedicated spoon or scoop to place pet food in the bowl. To avoid contaminating the pet food do NOT use the unwashed bowl as a scoop.


  • Promptly seal and refrigerate any unused or leftover wet or moist pet food or treats in a refrigerator set at 40°F or below, or discard it.
  • Use leftover, refrigerated wet/moist food and treats as soon as possible and according to label directions.
  • Store dry pet food and treats in a cool, dry place at less than 80°F.
  • If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated, airtight container. If the original bag is not used, save the part of the bag with the complete product name, date of manufacture, lot number, and expiration date or best-by date. This information is helpful in an investigation where contaminated pet food is suspected. It also can help you avoid feeding out-of-date food.
  • Keep all pet food out of reach of very young children, who may be tempted to put it in their mouths.
  • Dispose of spoiled or old pet food by putting it in a securely tied plastic bag, inside a covered trash receptacle. This is to keep other pets and wildlife from getting hold of the food.

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