Glowing dog food blamed on sea bugs

Last updated 13:39 29/09/2014

Animation about one of these sea species of bacteria and why it glows

Fiona Wallis wants to know what turned two cuts of dog meat into a free light show.
BRIGHT MEAT: Fiona Wallis wants to know what turned two cuts of dog meat into a free light show.
FEELING HUNGRY: Tyke the dog refused his radioactive snack.

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Mysteriously glowing dog tucker found by a Taranaki woman might be explained by the presence of sea-based bacteria, an expert believes.

The eerie fluorescent blue glow emanating from a pair of dog bones bought for her dog Tyke left Taranaki woman Fiona Wallis hunting for answers.

And Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles thinks she may have them.

The head of the bioluminescent superbugs lab at the University of Auckland, Wiles said the discovery had caused quite a stir.

She would be working with Jimbo's Pet Food, which distributed the meat and is considering recalling the product, to solve the mystery.

"They are going to get me something from the same batch today but it would be good to get [Fiona's] one as well,'' Wiles said.

She said at first glance the glow was most likely produced by sea-based bacteria.

''The bones are kept in a kind of brine which is very salty, so those sea bacteria will enjoy that environment.''

She said although there were a couple of strains that could be dangerous, it was unlikely to be the case for this meat.

''I think the risks are really minimal.

''It's really common in fish.

''If you leave fish in the fridge for a few days sometimes it will start to glow.

''In most cases you would never know because we would cook it.''

She said it was also likely that those packaging the meat wouldn't notice a glow.

''The product is sealed up and if it stays sealed you wouldn't see any light because there isn't any oxygen in there.

''But when you open the packet they start to glow.

''So without opening all the packets it would be rather difficult to tell whether there was anything there.''

Wiles said she can't wait to get her hands on one of the glowing cuts of dog tucker, but it was likely to take some time before they could determine exactly what it was.

''We have to grow the bacteria, then isolate its DNA and then send it off for sequencing to find out exactly what it is.''

Wallis said she didn't know what to think when she discovered the glow.

''The dog trotted off to its room and it started glowing in its mouth. You naturally think it's radioactive or something.

''What is in this animal to make it glow like that?''

Jimbo's Pet Food general manager Dave Allan said the glowing meat was packed 29 days ago, so most of it would have been consumed, but he is looking at recalling any of the product that is still on shelves.

''We are not aware of any risk to the animals.''

He was on the way to pick up the affected meat and would have it back in Auckland today for testing.

In 2011 stories came out of China of a woman who found that meat she had fed her family was emanating the same light.

After a detailed investigation it was found the cause for the ''blue glow pork'' was secondary bacterial contamination called phosphorescent bacteria.

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At the time, the Shanghai Health Supervision Department said the pork was ''still safe to eat if well-cooked''.

- Taranaki Daily News


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