Food Safety for Fresh Food Feeders

Working with raw foods is the same as when you work with them for your family, the only difference is that you end up cooking the raw ingredients for your family.

Let's have a look at some topics that fresh food feeders should have a good understanding of.

Food Ingredients in Bowls

Fridge information
Your fridge needs to be no higher than 5 degrees C, some older fridges may need a temperature gauge placed inside of them. In older fridges, the higher shelves will be colder than the lower shelves(2).

Avoid crowding stored products in the refrigerator; ensure good air circulation around each item - this means: don't stack things on top of one another otherwise your food will break down faster(2).

Don’t let raw meat drip on or touch other foods, especially if that food won’t be cooked further.  Place raw meats don't the bottom shelves and pop them in containers.

Can you defrost and then refreeze?
Yes, if this is done in a fridge running at no higher than 5 degrees C. There will be some quality loss and due to the cells breaking down a bit, the meat might be a little watery. If you can see icicles on the meat, this is showing you that the cells have broken down, the more icicles, the more loss of quality.

Can you feed Pork?
Food Safety Australia says that humans can consume rare pork because the parasite known as Trichinella which is the cause of the issues in Pork has never been detected in Australia therefore this isn't going to be an issue for your dog to consume raw Pork. 

Here in Australia, a different species, Trichinella pseudospiralis, occurs in native carnivorous marsupials (e.g. spotted quolls and Tasmanian Devils) and this species also presents a potential problem for humans(1).

Marked down meat at the supermarket

Bargains are not always of high quality and may have reduced shelf life, meats and other fresh produce are usually marked down because they're about to reach their use-by date.  If you purchase these, use them immediately or freeze them.

Use by vs Best Before
A ‘use by’ date means exactly that: you must use or freeze the food by that date or you may get sick. A ‘best before’ date on a packaged food means that you can still eat it after that date but it may have lost some nutrition or quality.

Swollen Packages
Don't buy swollen chilled food packages. The contents are going off and these items should not be bought - the gas is made by the bacteria and puffs up the packaging.

Storage life of foods in the coolest part of the fridge

Seafood - 3 days
Crustaceans and molluscs - 2 days
Meat - 3-5 days
Minced meat and offal - 2-3 days
Cured meat - 2-3 weeks
Poultry - 3 days
Milk - 5-7 days
Cheese - variable (1-3 months)
Soft cheeses (camembert, brie) - 2-3 weeks
Cottage, ricotta, cream cheeses - 10 days
Eggs - 3-6 weeks
Butter - 8 weeks
Oil and fat - variable (6 months)
Source: CSIRO

Wrapped fresh meat can be kept safely for up to three days and unwrapped fresh meat up to five days at cold temperatures, 0° to 3° C. Wrapped meat remains moist and maintains its quality but surface growth of microorganisms is encouraged and the meat becomes slimy after about three days. If you notice an off odour, the best thing to do is to throw the food out.

Unwrapped meat lasts longer than wrapped meat. When meat is stored unwrapped, the exposed surface dries out. This drying retards microbial growth but over-drying causes undesirable colour changes and loss of flavour. A compromise can be reached by storing your meat in an adequately ventilated container or loosening the wrapping around the meat so air can circulate. To ensure all surfaces are exposed to drying, place the meat on a clean stainless steel, chrome plated or plastic rack. Do not sit the meat on a plate or other solid surface, or pack it too closely. This will reduce the drying effect(3).

Uncooked minced meat, liver, kidneys, poultry and seafoods need careful storage because they usually carry large numbers of spoilage microorganisms. These can grow even at refrigeration temperatures, so always store these foods in the coldest part of the refrigeration section as close as possible to 0° C. The longest recommended storage time is three days(3)

Pet Grade Meats
Meat designated as 'pet food' should not come into direct contact with meat for human consumption as it may have been produced under less hygienic conditions. It should be well wrapped and stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator(3)

Egg Safety
Eggs should be stored in the fridge in their carton, this will lengthen their usability timeline.

To see if eggs are off, simply fill a bowl with cold tap water and place your eggs in it. If they sink to the bottom and lay flat on one side, they are fresh and good to eat. A bad egg will float because of the large air cell that forms at its base. 

Eggs can be contaminated by the food poisoning bacterium Salmonella when they are laid. While the egg industry supplies fresh eggs as safe as possible they can be a source of food poisoning if not handled or cooked properly in humans. 

By large, dogs do not seem to suffer the same most likely because of the pH level and specific bacteria in their guts kill off many pathogens, however, dogs with sensitive digestive systems would probably do better with cooked eggs and not be fed the shell.

 

Many fresh food-feeding pet parents feed the entire eggs with the shell as well as eggshell for calcium to their dogs. Supermarket eggs are generally washed and brushed clean to make them safer but sometimes they are also washed in chlorine which is what is in your drinking water.  People in online forums often say that supermarket eggshells are "bleached" - we haven't found any cases of this in Australia.

Killing bacteria by cooking
Some dogs may not be able to consume raw food for medical reasons.

Steaks, chops and other whole pieces of meat can be cooked to preference. As long as it is heated on the outside to kill bacteria it doesn’t matter if it is rare inside. This is because a whole piece of meat, such as a steak, can only be handled or be open to contamination on the surface. Any bacteria on or near the surface will be easily killed during cooking.

Mince meat however has been exposed to bacteria at all levels so will need to be cooked all the way through until it reaches 75 degrees C(4).

Should you feed food you know is 'off' to your dog?
Whilst dogs have stomach pH and specific bacteria types to kill off a lot of pathogens, it's not ideal to push the friendship, it could make your dog sick or even just put your dog's digestive system under unnecessary stress that may have other repercussions. 

Campylobacter & Chicken Necks + Wings
Acute polyradiculoneuritis (APN) is a rare condition similar to Guillain‐Barré syndrome (GBS) in humans, resulting in immune-mediated nerve damage which is thought to be triggered by Campylobacter spp bacteria. Much more research is needed to understand the 'link' as obviously lots of dogs consume chicken necks & wings and do not get sick and at this time it is considered a rare condition. Read more here.