ABSTRACT

Physical contact between humans and their pets increases the potential for zoonotic disease transmission. This study used the 2016 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Survey to compare the food handling behaviors of pet owners and non–pet owners, because poor food handling and hygiene habits can increase the likelihood of disease transmission from animals to humans. Results show that both pet ownership and pet type were important in predicting food safety behaviors. After controlling for sociodemographic factors included in this study (gender, age, household income, household size, and race or ethnicity), pet ownership was significantly associated with overall food safety practices and, more specifically, with better hand washing behaviors, kitchen cleaning, and ownership and use of a food thermometer, as well as a greater awareness of foodborne pathogens. Cat owners and cat-dog owners had better overall food safety practices and better hand washing behaviors compared with those of dog owners. After controlling for sociodemographic variables, there were no significant associations between pet ownership and perception of risks associated with unsafe food handling practices.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pet owners had better hand washing, kitchen cleaning, and food thermometer usage behaviors.

  • Cat owners had better food safety practices and hand washing compared with dog owners.

  • Risks related to unsafe food handling were not perceived differently by pet owners.

  • Pet ownership was associated with better awareness of foodborne pathogens.

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