RAW food safety recommendations

Written by Heidi Hilburn RVN
May 3, 2023

Raw feeding is increasing in popularity, with owners feeding a raw food diet, rather than feeding a commercially prepared food. Is it possible to feed this way safely? Here are some top tips from our veterinary team.

What is raw feeding

Raw feeding is a diet of raw food for a dog or a cat, that is made up of offal, raw meat, raw bone, fruit and vegetables, seeds nuts and oil. These diets are increasing in popularity in the UK, with a growing number of owners home preparing the raw food diet, rather than feeding a commercially prepared diet.

Raw feeding can be either:

  • Home prepared.
  • Commercially prepared.

Home prepared raw diets

As an owner you will need to source the raw ingredient and put them together yourself. There is always a concern with any home prepared diets, that they may not have the correct amount of nutrients in the right quantities, particularly vitamins and minerals.

Commercial raw diet

Commercially prepared diets are available as

  • ‘complementary’ which require feeding together with another food source,
  •  ‘complete’ which have been specifically prepared to provide a cat or dog with the nutrients they need, this may also have insufficient vitamins and minerals.

Vets advise that a commercially prepared raw diet that is complete, is preferred over a home prepared diet. This will need to be fed, according to your pets age and weight, to provide them with the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

As with all commercially prepared food manufacturers, raw food manufacturers must adhere to certain hygiene standards, and are also subject to strict legislations that require various tests to ensure the food they produce is safe. This minimises the risk to humans and pets of food- borne contamination

Here is a link to food manufacturers offering raw feeding that is commercially prepared and complete:

  UK Pet Food's raw pet food manufacturers.

Why does raw feeding carry health risk for my family and I

Feeding raw whether it is fresh, frozen or freeze dried, can affect your pet and your family’s health. Good food hygiene is always important, but even more so, when handling raw food.

Raw meat can be contaminated with germs like salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, E. coli, these germs would normally be killed off during the normal cooking process.

Even with the greatest of care, the risk of cross-contamination is high, which is the reason hygiene is so important. The bacteria on your hands from handling the raw food can unintentionally spread bacteria on your clothing, to other people, object or surfaces.

Your pet’s saliva and faeces are another source for cross contamination, as both can contain lots of potentially dangerous bacteria. Washing your hands after touching your pet or picking up their faeces is especially important.

People most at risk from bacteria and pathogens in raw food

  • Pregnant women
  • Young children as their immune systems are still developing, they are also more likely to put their fingers in their mouth
  • Elderly people
  • Immunocompromised

Storing frozen raw food safely

Safe storage is essential, generally raw food doesn’t contain additives or preservatives, so will be delivered frozen and should remain frozen until required. Correct storage instructions should be clearly written on the packaging and should be carefully followed.

  • Ensure the food is entirely frozen on receipt of delivery
  • Make sure that the packaging is secure and has no tears or holes
  • Keep the food in the freezer until needed.
  • Ideally store away from human food, at the very bottom of the freezer in case of any juice spillage

Defrosting raw food safely.

When defrosting raw food ensure that you:

  • Wash hands with hot water before and immediately after handling raw food or treats,
  • Thaw raw food in the fridge, don’t use a microwave, defrost in an airtight, leak-proof container ideally away from human food at the very bottom of the fridge in case of any juice spillage                                                           
  • Never refreeze raw food
  • Immediately after handling the frozen raw food, wash and disinfect items that have been in contact with raw food.

Handling raw food safely

  • Immediately after use, clean and disinfect surfaces that raw food has touched, work surfaces, storage containers and utensils like knives, forks and bowls
  • Remove and very carefully dispose of any uneaten raw food that is left once your pet has finished eating
  • Disinfect and clean your pets feeding area as soon as they have finished eating
  • Follow the correct storage guidelines on the packaging.

Raw diets are increasing in popularity in the UK. Feeding your pet raw food can expose you and your family to bacteria which can make you very unwell, to minimise these risks food hygiene is very important.

Top Tips

  • wash hands with hot water before and immediately after handling your pet, their raw food, treats, packaging and their faeces
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces and utensils the raw food touches.
  • Store and defrost raw pet food and treats away from where human food is stored and prepared.
  • Carefully follow the guidelines on the packaging about storage, defrosting and disposal of the raw food

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