The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pet food be kept at -10 degrees Celsius (38.5 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six hours after being prepared for use, but it has no way of checking that.
“In the field, there’s a lot of food that will be spoiled.
It’s just one more thing that we’re not doing our job,” says Peter Prentice, the president of the American Veterinary Association.
Prentice says that in his opinion, the best way to prevent pet food from failing to freeze is to avoid the storage containers.
“We need to look at a whole host of things,” he says.
“For starters, it’s not an easy thing to store food in the fridge,” he adds.
“That’s the first thing.
But secondly, when it comes to food that you prepare, how do you make sure it’s safe?
You have to be very careful not to put the food in contact with a water source.
And it has to be in a sealed container that is designed for pet food storage.”
Prentice’s group has a list of more than 200 products on its website that can be used to keep pet food at -5 degrees Celsius (-37.7 degrees Fahrenheit), but only one is actually tested.
“A lot of these products can’t be refrigerated,” he notes.
“They can’t even be stored in a freezer.
We don’t have enough refrigeration capacity.”
Pet food, of course, isn’t the only food that’s vulnerable to freezing.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (FSIS) also recommends pet food not be stored at room temperature.
It also recommends that when pet food is stored in its packaging, it should be kept below -40 degrees Celsius, because the freezing temperature of the food will decrease with time.
“The main thing to remember is that food stored at -40 or below will degrade very quickly,” says FSSI spokesman Mike Peczkowski.
“It will degrade rapidly.
It will turn to mush in your mouth.
That food can be dangerous to your pet’s health.”
Pet foods that are at -20 degrees Celsius or below are also vulnerable to food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella, the most common foodborne illness among pet dogs and cats, and E. coli O157:H7, the bacteria that can cause gastroenteritis in humans.
Peczowski says that it’s difficult to tell whether pet food in its package was stored at temperatures below -20 or above because the USDA doesn’t test pet food products that are packaged at the retail level.
“But you can tell because there are labels that say it was stored in -20,” he explains.
“There’s a label for that food that says it was refrigerated.
That is not a food that we would store in the freezer.”
Peczykowski says the FSSIS has tested food packaged at retail level and that it hasn’t found any cases of E.coli or salmonellosis in pets.
“It would be nice if we had the ability to look for that in the package,” he continues.
“You want to make sure that you don’t put food in your dog or cat’s mouth, but there are so many other things that you can do to protect your pets from food-related illness.
And the best thing to do is to keep them safe.”