Retailers may sell raw pet foods; however, the majority of complete pet food products are not raw. They have been heat-treated during manufacturing to prevent microbial contamination. Pet food manufacturing plants often have limits regarding the receiving, storing and use of ingredients that make most raw ingredients impractical.
However, consumers should be aware of raw-food handling practices. Most raw (or undercooked) pet food consists of meat, ground bone, organ meats, raw eggs, vegetables or fruits and some dairy products. Because of these raw ingredients, there has been an increased concern for cross-contamination of bacteria, such as salmonella, to humans. These bacteria may pose a danger to the people in the household, especially children, the elderly and those with poor immune systems. Although dogs and cats may be more resistant to these bacteria, they are not immune and can become very ill.
Whether preparing a family meal or pet food, bacteria is always an issue. Safe kitchen food-handling practices for raw animal products apply. For example, a dog bowl full of raw hamburger raises several concerns that need to be considered. Can children reach the dog food? Does the uneaten raw hamburger go back in the refrigerator? Is the bowl ever washed and cleaned? How often? What about what is spilled on the floor?
Additional precautions need to be taken to protect humans from accidental contamination or ingestion.
The FDA has a number of excellent resources for those who wish to feed raw foods to their pets. Check them out here.