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What to Look for in a Pet Food Testing Lab

pet food testing lab

What’s in the Food is What’s in the News

If you watch or read the news, you may have heard about recent FDA warnings against certain pet food brands and their products. Pet food warnings and recalls are nothing new, but in 2019, several warnings have already been issued for products that have tested positive for everything from Salmonella to Listeria monocytogenes — necessitating the use of a pet food testing lab more than ever.

Both are forms of bacteria that can cause harm and even death to humans and animals alike — by direct consumption by companion animals or by cross-contamination to human foods. Infected pets may also carry these pathogenic infections without exhibiting symptoms, further increasing the risk of cross-contamination to humans.

The warnings were issued primarily against pet food companies producing raw pet foods — a product that has been growing in popularity as some pet owners feel the raw food is more easily broken down during digestion than processed foods. Despite its popularity, many have called the viability of raw pet food products into question considering raw food itself always poses a risk of contamination.

With more and more eyes turning toward not only the health aspects of food products but also the ways in which they find their way onto the market, we wanted to review some of the most common pathogens which can appear in pet food and pet treats. Tests to identify these microorganisms should be performed by a qualified pet food testing lab and should be performed repeatedly on multiple samples to ensure consumers and pets stay safe.

Bacteria Often Identified by Pet Food Testing Labs

A pet food testing lab can perform a variety of microbiology tests on different types of pet food products. For dry foods and treats, such as kibble, tests should analyze ingredient and finished product samples for the presence of Salmonella and E. coli, as these products are made from meat byproducts. Testing for these two forms of bacteria should be performed for all pet food products — whether they’re shelf-stable or refrigerated, dry or wet.

For wet and refrigerated pet foods, a pet food testing lab should analyze products for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes — a bacteria that can lead to the infection Listeriosis. This infection can cause severe harm, as Listeria monocytogenes can cause widespread harm to the body, resulting in sepsis, meningitis, spontaneous termination of pregnancy, and more.

Canned pet food products are at risk of additional bacterial contamination as several types of bacteria will flourish in environments that are absent of oxygen (i.e., inside the can). Bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum and other anaerobic bacteria are examples of these, growing inside canned products and producing a gas that leads to a bulging can. The botulinum toxin produced by C. botulinum is the cause of botulism intoxication and can be lethal to people and animals alike.  It’s worth noting that tube-packaged and refrigerated non-canned pet food products may not require the above bacteria testing as those products are not oxygen-exclusive.

Recommendations for Sending Samples to a Pet Food Testing Lab

If you’re a pet food products manufacturer, processor, or distributor, products should be sent for testing on a regular and frequent schedule. This helps ensure your production is evaluated on a consistent basis and that any potential contaminants are discovered early so action can be taken.

When sending in samples to a pet food testing lab for pathogen testing, the minimum sample size should be 100 grams per pathogen test requested. More may be required if your facility is using a sample size larger than 25 grams for any test. Dry food products should be packed carefully, properly labeled, and safely contained. Wet food products must be put in a cooler with ice packs to maintain appropriate internal temperature and must be shipped overnight to the lab (ideally for early morning delivery).

It’s also important to work with a pet food testing lab that understands the urgency involved in microbiology testing. While samples must be shipped expediently and packed appropriately, an effective testing lab will turn test results around rapidly to ensure the product wasn’t subjected to any adverse conditions or changes during transit.

This is critical, as most producers will not ship product until negative pathogen results have been received — proving that the products are free from pathogenic adulteration and are safe for distribution to consumers. Delays or mishandled samples on the part of a pet food testing lab could have a negative impact on your bottom line and frustrate consumers looking for your products.

Work with a Proven Pet Food Testing Lab

At Barrow-Agee Laboratories, we’ve been helping companies with safety and quality testing for more than 100 years. Each sample we receive and test we perform is completed as efficiently as possible, with results customized to our clients’ needs and goals. If you’ve been looking for a pet food testing lab that you can rely on for expedient testing and accurate results each and every time, we invite you to submit a sample and put our experienced lab to work for your business.

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Barrow-Agee Laboratories is a laboratory testing services provider for numerous industries that support consumers and businesses alike. Whatever your testing needs may be, Barrow-Agee has the testing solution and support to help you get the results you need.