ABSTRACT

The growing popularity of raw meat–based diets for pets is accompanied by increasing concern regarding possible health implications of this practice for pet owners through the storage and preparation of raw meat. This study aimed to explore pet owners' knowledge and perceptions about the safety of raw meat–based feeding and to determine self-reported food safety practices during raw meat–based pet food preparation. An online questionnaire was distributed via social media platforms and completed by pet owners practicing raw meat–based feeding (n = 174). Almost all participants (95%) reported confidence that their pets' raw meat–based food is safe. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) reported that they had researched food safety information regarding raw meat–based feeding, yet only 8% asked a veterinarian for food safety advice. Respondents were aware of pathogens that may be present in raw meat–based diets and of food safety practices; however, they did not report consistent implementation of appropriate food safety practices. Malpractices, such as rinsing of raw meat (27%) and absence of segregation of utensils and kitchen surfaces (52%), were reported. The risk to pet owners of foodborne illness associated with raw meat–based feeding was perceived to be low by 89% of pet owners. Participants perceived low susceptibility to foodborne illness but high self-efficacy, which may be an indication of optimistic bias. This study has identified a need to increase pet owners' awareness of the possible risks to human health associated with raw meat–based feeding of animals. The provision of comprehensive food safety information, intended to target the perceptions of pet owners identified in this study, is needed to improve pet owners' food safety practices and thus to reduce the potential food safety risks associated with raw meat preparation and storage in the domestic environment.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pet owners reported awareness of foodborne pathogens associated with raw meat.

  • Self-reported food safety practices were inconsistent or insufficient.

  • Food safety malpractices when preparing and storing raw meat were self-reported.

  • Pet owners perceived low susceptibility to foodborne illness and optimistic bias.

  • Targeted information regarding safe raw meat–based feeding of pets is needed.

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