Maltese (Pixabay photo)

Keep pets away from gardens to prevent food-borne illness

Many of the pathogens affecting food safety come from the intestinal systems of animals

Animal waste tainting fresh produce is one of the major causes of food-borne ailments. So farmers markets and pick-your-own growers who fear fecal contamination are increasingly guarded about tolerating pets near their edibles.

Home gardeners should be cautious, too.

Many of the pathogens affecting food safety come from the intestinal systems of animals, said Diane Wright Hirsch, senior education educator with the University of Connecticut.

“Whether human, dog, cat, cow or deer — all animals can be the source of Salmonella, E. coli, parasites and other disease-causing microbes associated with food-borne illness,” Hirsch said.

E. coli outbreaks have been traced to meat, poultry and fresh produce, particularly lettuce. Salmonella has been detected in eggs, poultry, pork, sprouts, cucumbers and cantaloupe, while Listeria monocytogenes can be found in all types of food, including processed meats, cheese, apples and frozen vegetables, according to a University of Connecticut fact sheet.

All are serious ailments, particularly for the young and the elderly.

Contamination can be spread via irrigation water, animals, unsanitary workers, harvest containers and dirty equipment.

ALSO READ: Minor bulbs a colourful addition to gardens

It’s vital to keep animal and poultry feces out of residential and community gardens and well away from farmers markets and roadside food stands.

“I have seen a dog pee on the corner of a farmers market table, and another place his head near the produce (where has that mouth been?),” Hirsch said in an email.

“Farmers are working hard to produce safe fruits and vegetables — why let someone’s dog ruin it all with a lick, a squat or a lift of the leg?” she said.

Many large farmers markets have banned dogs from their craft, food and produce displays, citing breakage, safety and sanitary concerns.

The Olney (Maryland) Farmers and Artists Market struggled with the issue for years before deciding to exclude dogs, said Janet Terry, Olney’s president.

“It would be horrifying to think what would happen if dog feces were found on our site. It also would be horrifying if a dog got off a leash and mauled a child,” Terry said. “This happened at a large market in Baltimore several years ago. We just don’t want to take any risks.”

Some dog owners were angry about the pet ban, Terry said. “The good news is now, after 11 seasons, most of the complaining has stopped. We believe we have done the right thing.”

Some suggestions from University of Connecticut Extension aimed at minimizing food safety threats:

  • Use potable water when watering your food plants. Do not use rain barrels or other open water sources.
  • Always wash hands prior to harvesting, and don’t harvest when sick.
  • Use composted manure that has been managed to destroy potential pathogens, or wait 120 days before harvesting before applying untreated manure or compost.
  • Locate your garden away from contamination sources, and protect it from chickens, wildlife and pets.

There is little you can do if animals defecate on or near your edibles, Hirsch said.

“If harvestable or close-to-harvestable fruits or vegetables are affected, do not harvest, do not eat,” she said. “It is just too risky.”

Dean Fosdick, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Strathcona Regional District community broadband plans are a roadmap for connectivity

Seven communities within SRD are part of Connected Coast program

Campbell River celebrates Canada Day virtually

Three-hour online video of community contributions available at noon Canada Day

Canada Day barn fire keeps three Island crews busy

Oyster River, Campbell River and Courtenay fire departments all respond to incident

Crowdfunding campaign to repair vandalized driftwood sculpture smashes goal in hours

Sarah the Raptor was found vandalized at its Willow Point perch on June 28

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

Most Read