FDA, CDC agree: Put down those pig ears

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And if you’ve been gnawing on them (they’re a delicacy in some countries), you might want to spit ’em out.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with public health and regulatory officials in several states, are investigating an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Salmonella across 13 states—an outbreak linked to contact with pig ear dog treats.

The CDC and the FDA announced the investigation last Wednesday, singling out pig ear dog treats as the common source of contact for the infection.

Authorities say that 45 people—from California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin—have been infected with Salmonella; 12 of the people were hospitalized.

Of the 38 infected people interviewed by the CDC, 34 said they had come into contact with a dog prior to contracting the illness, and 17 out of 24 said that they came into contact with pig ear dog treats or dogs who had been given the treats.

Retailer Pet Supplies Plus is voluntarily recalling bulk pig ear products—the kind stored in open bins and sold individually—supplied to all locations by several different vendors due to the potential of Salmonella contamination, although none of the cases are confirmed to be a result of purchasing pig ears from any Pet Supplies Plus location. Prepackaged, branded pig ears have not been recalled.

Pet Supplies Plus issued the recall after the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced that aging bulk pig ear product in one Pet Supplies Plus location had tested positive for Salmonella.

A common supplier of pig ear treats associated with this outbreak has not been identified.

Salmonella can affect animals who eat the products, and there is a risk to humans who handle contaminated pet products, especially if they haven’t thoroughly washed their hands after contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to the products.

This particular serotype, Salmonella 4,5,12:i:-  may also be more difficult to treat, as it is proving resistant to a range of antibiotics, including ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, tetracycline, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

By CDC estimates, Salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations, and 450 deaths in the United States every year. Food is the source for about 1 million of these illnesses.

The investigation is ongoing.

Photo credit: © iStock/jonnysek