The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has urged reptile owners who purchase certain feeder rodents for their pets to take “extra precautions” to avoid becoming ill with salmonellosis.
It comes after scientists have again confirmed a link between Salmonella detected in feeder mice distributed by Monkfield Nutrition Ltd across all four UK nations, and an outbreak of human cases of Salmonella.
Despite the risk to the general public being considered to be “very low” the agency has still issued caution to reptile owners.
The feeder rodents affected, which were imported from Lithuania and are sold in a number of retailers, are typically fed to reptiles, particularly snakes.
Retailers are now required by law to provide customers who buy the feeder rodents from Monkfield Nutrition, with information about the risks of Salmonella infection and advice on always washing their hands as a good hygiene practice for handling animal food in the home.
The outbreak was first investigated in 2015 and has so far resulted in almost 850 reported human cases, mostly but not exclusively, living in households with one or more pet reptiles.
Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA, said: “We are advising pet handlers that they should follow good hygiene when handling feeder rodents and pet reptiles to avoid the risk of becoming ill with salmonella.
“This is aimed at ensuring pet handlers clearly understand the potential risks and have access to information to reduce the risks. We will continue to monitor this situation carefully, and act proportionately to ensure both public and animal health.”
Dr Lesley Larkin, surveillance lead, gastrointestinal pathogens unit at Public Health England, added: “Just as for handling raw human food, there is an inherent risk of Salmonella when handling raw or frozen and defrosted pet food such as mice, rats or chicks, as freezing does not kill Salmonella.
“Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after handling the frozen food and feeding your reptile, after handling your reptile, cleaning their vivarium or any other equipment such as soaking pools.”