The addition of pet meals to Sydney menus has become a growing trend. Eight Sydney restaurants - and counting - have publicised a take-away option for furry family members.
The trend is said to have started as a means to differentiate restaurant services from those of competitors while meeting the growing demand for pet products and treats. Meals include chicken, goat, pasta, and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways with light seasonings.
While pet meals bare a strong resemblance to those prepared for human clientele, consumers need to be warned that the food safety standards for pet food are vastly different from those used in the preparation of human food. Animals are not susceptible to the same foodborne illnesses as people, so their food can be prepared with fewer precautions. As well, owners who do purchase meals for their pet should understand potential health risks and take extra care when storing any leftovers from the meal.
Not for Human Consumption
In the same way that we should not eat packaged dog food, people should also be wary of consuming restaurant-style pet meals. While the meals may look, smell, and maybe even taste like a similar human dish, the same standard of food safety may not have been used in preparation.
Dog food can incorporate animal parts that were deemed unfit for human consumption. Restaurants are likely following the same logic in their pet meal preparation – using ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown away, such as small pieces of animal offal.
Pets’ immune systems also prevent them from contracting the same foodborne diseases that humans are susceptible to. This allows them to digest potentially expired or undercooked meat without risk of becoming sick. For this reason, chefs are able to prepare pet meals with meat that would present major health risks if consumed by a person.
Keeping Meals Separate
When storing any leftovers from a shared takeaway meal, take extra precautions in storing the remaining contents of the meal. Ensure that yours and your pet’s meals are stored in separate, closed containers and use a clean utensil for the transfer of each.
The remains of the pet meal present food safety concerns from both preparation and exposure to the bacteria present in your pet’s mouth. If your meal is exposed to these bacteria, it is contaminated and presents a potential risk for contracting a foodborne illness. Any portion of the human meal that makes contact with the pet meal should be immediately discarded.
Sharing the restaurant dining experience with your pet can present an excellent opportunity for bonding, as long as it doesn't cloud judgment and prevent the upholding of proper food safety practices.