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Cats may have infected owners with tuberculosis

The five TB cases were distributed across areas of England and Scotland at low risk of endemic bovine tuberculosis, said the scientific report, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases.

Posted on 14 December 2020

Four pet owners and one veterinary surgeon tested positive for the lung disease TB after close contact with cats fed a fashionable diet, it concludes. One of the owners needed drug treatment, reports The Times newspaper.

More than 100 cats were carrying the infection Mycobacterium bovis, which can cause TB across species, and some were suffering skin lesions and breathing problems.

All had eaten raw venison from one supplier — Natural Instinct in Surrey, according to the report on which the story is based.

Scientists said that it was highly likely the raw food was to blame. “We found compelling evidence that it was the cause of infection,” reports The Times.

The five TB cases were distributed across areas of England and Scotland at low risk of endemic bovine tuberculosis, said the scientific report, Transboundary and Emerging Diseases.

The raw venison cat food was withdrawn from sale when the outbreak occurred in December, 2018. Natural Instinct said some ingredients “were not inspected in line with EU requirements”.

Natural Instinct said that it had not sold any venison product since 2018, reports The Times and quotes the company: “Having been informed by the Food Standards Agency that a supplier had not followed EU inspection protocols, the product was then the subject of a comprehensive product recall. The study carried out by the University of Edinburgh, and published earlier this month, found no signs of TB contamination in any of the Natural Instinct food tested and there is therefore no reason to suggest this is the case.”

The pet food market in the UK is estimated at £91 million and the popularity of family pets has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people have been confined to their homes.

Leigh Day product safety lawyers are bringing a claim against Natural Instinct on behalf of affected cat owners.

Solicitor Angela Bruno said:

“It is extremely worrying that a range of cat food can have infected pets with TB which they then passed to their owners. Pet owners need to be confident that the food they provide to their pets is safe and risk-free. Whilst the product in question was recalled back in December 2018, TB can lay dormant for many years before presenting. If you consider you have been affected by the raw venison Natural Instinct cat food, please get in touch.”

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Angela Bruno
Medical devices Food safety

Angela Bruno

Angela is a leading product safety and consumer rights lawyer. She also co-manages the food safety team at the London office.