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

Just Posted

Duncan Lanes bowlers take on the best in B.C.

The best results for the Cowichan Valley bowlers came in the intermediate girls division

Sonia Furstenau column: Now the time to make changes for the better

This coronavirus has given us opportunity to identify what matters most in our day-to-day lives.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Drivesmart column: Staying on your side of the road

No exemptions that grant permission to disobey the keeping to the right rule based on convenience.

Mary Lowther column: Starting seeds to beat the slugs, wood bugs

My favourite sorts of seedling starters are the plastic cells that fit inside trays

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read