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Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your dog's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your dog, how much food to feed, and the differences in dog foods, so your dog gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Dog Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of dog nutrition.

Did Anyone Actually Read the AVMA Raw Meat Policy?

September 28, 2012 / (28) comments

I don’t understand the kerfuffle over the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) newly adopted policy about the feeding of raw or undercooked animal-sourced protein to dogs and cats. Sure, I expected some push-back from the advocates of raw feeding, but the majority of people commenting on the policy seem to have missed the point entirely. Allegations that the AVMA is "in the pocket" of the commercial pet food industry are taking center stage, and they’re entirely off base.

Take a look at the first paragraph of the policy:

The AVMA discourages the feeding to cats and dogs of any animal-source protein that has not first been subjected to a process to eliminate pathogens because of the risk of illness to cats and dogs as well as humans. Cooking [emphasis mine] or pasteurization through the application of heat until the protein reaches an internal temperature adequate to destroy pathogenic organisms has been the traditional method used to eliminate pathogens in animal-source protein, although the AVMA recognizes that newer technologies and other methods such as irradiation are constantly being developed and implemented.

Ok, so this is not the most elegantly worded statement, but essentially it just says to cook your dog or cat’s meat before you feed it to them.

Further down in the policy statement you’ll find the following:

To mitigate public health risks associated with feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs, the AVMA recommends the following:

  • Avoid feeding inadequately treated animal-source protein to cats and dogs
  • Restrict cats’ and dogs’ access to carrion and animal carcasses (e.g., while hunting)
  • Provide fresh, clean, nutritionally balanced and complete commercially prepared or home-cooked food [again, emphasis mine] to cats and dogs, and dispose of uneaten food at least daily
  • Practice personal hygiene (e.g., handwashing) before and after feeding cats and dogs, providing treats, cleaning pet dishes, and disposing of uneaten food

So here it expressly says that nutritionally balanced and complete home-cooked foods are fine. How is this being "a puppet of the pet food industry," as some have claimed?

If you are proponent of feeding raw animal-sourced proteins to your pet, I’m happy to debate the issue with you. I believe the benefits that are often alluded to with regards to this type of diet can also be derived by cooking the meat and combining it with raw (but well-washed) fruits and vegetables and other ingredients necessary to balance out the diet while greatly reducing the risk to canine, feline, and human health.

Don’t agree with me? Fine. The new AVMA policy in no way stops owners from feeding their pets what they want or individual veterinarians from recommending whatever diet they feel is best for their patients. So what’s the big deal?

The AVMA has done a poor job of explaining exactly what is and is not covered by their new policy and why it was adopted in the first place. To remedy the situation, the organization has posted a new FAQ entitled Raw Pet Foods and the AVMA's Policy on its website. Take a look at it. It does a much better job than the policy statement itself of explaining the state-of-affairs surrounding the feeding of raw animal-sourced protein to dogs and cats.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: The Bone Collector by green kozi / via Flickr

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Comments  28

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  • Undercooked Burgers
    09/28/2012 07:08am

    As humans, we have been warned about eating undercooked burgers to avoid health problems. The same goes for raw eggs. Why wouldn't the same thought process go for our critters?

  • 09/28/2012 03:50pm

    The problem is that when we were young, practices in slaughter houses and meat packing plants were more sanitary, probably because they weren't producing in such bulk as facilities are doing today. In Canada, we are presently going through one of those meat recalls,(www.bit.ly/SpEhOL), and it always takes me back to when we were able to safely have our egg nog and steak tartare.

    Some of the diseases involved don't usually affect our pets, but can so easily be passed along to those we care for, so I am never impressed when I read people boasting about putting the lives of others at risk with their choices.

  • 10/16/2012 04:32pm

    Because humans CAN cook their food. Animals can't. They are naturally equipped to eat raw.

  • AVMA policy
    09/28/2012 12:48pm

    Looks like my vet doesn't care about the latest recommendation on raw feeding either.I sure don't.
    I brought my new puppy for a check up and was asked how I was feeding her.When I indicated that I feed kibble/cooked/raw, I was asked if I needed help with nutritional balancing the food. Now that is a good vet:-)
    And would I give up my rare steak or runny soft boiled eggs? No way..

  • 09/28/2012 01:33pm

    @papoodles, I guess you don't have young children or seniors around who would have contact with your pets.

    It is fine for owners who aren't jeopardizing other unsuspecting humans to do what they want in their own homes. As a person who has actually contracted and survived Escherichia coli O157:H7 I personally would not wish the experience on any other living being.

    Your very rare steaks would not cause you to encounter this issue having been seared on the surface of the meat, at the least. It is the ground meats and totally uncooked meats, (steak tartare), that are suffering poor sanitary conditions in present day slaughter houses that are the problem. E. Coli is released from the intestines of the animal to exposed meat surfaces.

    I can always tell a really good holistic veterinarian by the fact that they insist that an owner at least completely sear the surface of meats they are preparing for their animals, and that the equipment used in preparation is scrupulously clean.

  • 09/28/2012 01:56pm

    I do..18 month old grandson and 86 year old mother. And my mother and I still enjoy eating the occasional steak tartare,and it goes without saying that you must take good sanitary precautions.
    I follow Dr Karen Becker, rather than the AVMA.
    And of course,our own,very highly respected Veterinary practice. As a matter of fact, you can catch one of the vets on TV once in a while..

  • 09/28/2012 03:29pm

    Dr Karen Becker is a vegetarian, last I heard, so I think you are mistaken, there. You might follow what she says, but not what she does.

    Dr Becker took her training through the organization founded by Dr Pitcairn, who has little knowledge of small animal nutrition, and doesn't seem to pay any attention to scientific data. Even today, the "Professional" level course that Dr Becker took doesn't look once at nutrition of any sort for small animals http://www.drpitcairn.com/training/pc-course/course-outline/ As you can see, the curriculum just covers battling diseases. Where she trained to become an expert on small animal nutrition, I fail to understand.

    None of this changes the fact that Dr Coates is very right in that what the AVMA has stated has been misinterpreted by the extremists who prefer to follow a belief system rather than science.

  • 09/29/2012 10:33am

    Westcoastsyrinx, if you are going write about Drs. Becker and Pitcairn, please do so factually. Perhaps if you read their books, you might realize that Dr. Becker strongly recommends raw meat diets and that Dr. Pitcairn was a lot more educated about formulating healthful dog and cat diets than your comments indicate that you are.

  • REAL Problem is Kibble
    09/28/2012 02:50pm

    But the real problem is kibble. Just look at the dry pet foods that have been recalled by the FDA:

    http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/newpetfoodrecalls/

    Many of these recalls were for pathogens that were found in DRY food. Rarely did any commercially produced raw diets appear on the FDA's recall list.

    I agree that you do take a risk when feeding a raw diet, however past history has shown that the risk seems greater if you feed a diet consisting of kibble.

    The real issue lies in that the AVMA chose to single out pathogens in raw diets without also addressing the greater risk with feeding kibble. Their policy was poorly drafted. The AVMA's policy should have focused on the safe handing of ALL pet foods and not just raw diets.

    Regarding the allegations that the AVMA is "in the pocket" of the commercial pet food industry, I would like to point out a few facts that may lead one to question why AVMA chose to only address the feeding of raw diets while not addressing the risks also associated with feeding dry diets.

    The feeding of raw food was first addressed by the Delta Society. In 2010 The Delta Society, a national charity that trains and organizes pet visitations to the sick and elderly, made a decision to ban all Pet Partners that feed raw meat pet food. Brenda Bax, Marketing Director, Purina Pet Foods who incidentally also held a position on the Delta Society's board of directors played a significant role in Delta Society's decision to ban raw pet food fed dogs from participating in their program. Even more interesting is that all participant dogs now volunteering for Delta Society wear a Purina patch on their harness.
    By the AVMA's own admission, their Raw Diet Policy was suggested by the Delta Society. The AVMA's statement about the resolution states "the Delta Society inquired if AVMA had a related policy." Was the Delta Society's agenda to push this resolution influenced by Brenda Bax and Purina Pet Foods?

    The 2012 AVMA Convention website states "Special Thanks to our 2012 Diamond Partner" - Hill's Science Diet and Hill's Rx pet foods. The charity arm of the AVMA is the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, AVMF. Their 2010 tax documents show donations from the following corporations (pages 17 and 18)...

    Bayer Animal Health - $45,000.00
    Elanco Animal Health - $85,000.00
    Merial - $225,000.00
    Pfizer, Inc. - $131,475.00
    Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. - $45,000.00
    Intervet Inc./Sherring-Plough Animal Health - $85,000.00

    While it is no crime for a charity veterinary organization to accept donations from pharmaceutical corporations and a pet food corporation, can the AVMA remain unbiased when over $600,000.00 is received, in one year, from these corporations? Can the AVMA remain unbiased when a pet food manufacturer sponsors a national convention? Additionally, I would also expect Dr. Coates to support the AVMA's Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets policy as her blog is also sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition.

    Again, I am not debating whether one should feed a raw diet or not as that is a personal decision. BUT I do question the AVMA's Raw or Undercooked Animal-Source Protein in Cat and Dog Diets policy, why the handling of ALL pet foods were not addressed and what influenced them to pass this one sided policy?

    Susan Pileggi, AHT

    *excerpts from The Domino Effect http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com/articles/the-domino-effect.html

  • 09/28/2012 03:34pm

    Let's hear it for the Delta Society. At least THEY have an understanding of how risky this is for less than perfect human immune systems.

  • 09/28/2012 03:47pm

    And while the Delta Society is responding to your question, why don't they also address the risks associated with feeding dry diets? AND why they only support the feeding a diet that has shown to be more likely to be contaminated with pathogens? Would they also like to address that back in 2008, Purina gave the Delta Society a donation of $400,000, the largest it had ever received, in the form of a two year pledge. And just two years later, the ban of raw fed service and therapy animals was instituted?

  • 09/28/2012 04:06pm

    Just because you follow a belief system that tells you there are "risks" with all dry foods, doesn't mean that the sources are dealing with scientific facts.

    As long as there has been dry food out there, I have chosen to include dry food for grazing for our pets, (portion control for dogs) in the daily diet. They are all built to graze on food, as has recently been proven by the NRC, which I assume you also don't care to heed.

    We never have health issues caused by nutritional deficiencies unless taking in fosters who are already diseased, and also feed foods from companies that have never had a recall due to contamination of the food.

    You may listen to all the propaganda out there supplied by raw feeding proponents but please don't shovel that stuff my way?

    It appears you aren't a person who can read with an open mind enough to understand what Dr. Coates is addressing here, and just make inane sniper attacks to support a very weak belief system that can't respect the views of non believers. I believe that is called fanaticism or obsession?

    How rude!

  • 09/28/2012 04:30pm

    I find your conclusions very rude. I am not blindly following the propaganda of the raw diet manufactures or raw diet proponents but rather my conclusions are based on the FDA's Pet Food recall list and my training in veterinary nutrition.

    And for YOUR information, although my dogs are fed primarily a raw diet, they will also have a meal of kibble or freeze dried food several times a week. Raw diets are not appropriate for every dog and neither is kibble or canned diets. I don't have a problem with feeding kibble and recommend it to many of my clients but along with those recommendations, I also educate them about the possible hazards and safe handling practices of ALL pet food.

    Regarding your belief in free feeding, it works for some pets and not for others but it not relative to this discussion.

    I am not here to debate the raw v. dry food diets controversy but rather to show my concern that the AVMA chose to ignore the real issue at hand, which is the proper handling of ALL pet foods, regardless of their form. Also I question AVMA's and the Delta Society's motivation to institute their one sided policies.

  • 09/28/2012 07:29pm

    Just got an email alert that Dog peanut butter is being recalled because of...SALMONELLA.
    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-recall/dogsbutter-recall/

  • raw or not
    09/28/2012 03:20pm

    It is too bad people get so angry about all of this. I, personally, buy my dog freshly ground turkey at a local market and cook it for him. With it he gets green beans, sweet potato, and yogurt. He also enjoys an occasional bite of my apple. I do not feed many raw vegetables other than green beans because most of them make him vomit. That is his own sensitivity and does not mean that other dogs should not have them.
    I also give him a good quality kibble (Atemis Fresh Mix). I use it mostly as treats since we do a lot of training. There have been many kibble recalls over the years; this one has never been subject to a recall but that does not mean it is not possible.
    Just the other day, a jar of Fresh and Easy Organic Peanut Butter I had in my refridgerator was under a recall along with others from such places as Trader Joes. They were manufactured in the same plant. I had eaten some, as had my husband (and if I had some no doubt my dog had a taste) and we did not get sick. We will not use any more of it, though.
    These things do happen, sometimes despite the best precautions. I, personally, eat no meat but fish and I certainly would not eat it raw. I am uncomfortable with feeding raw but I know many people who do and their dogs are very healthy. I know that people say dogs eat raw in the wild but usually it is fresh kill so it is less likely to have been contaminated with certain harmful pathogens. And...we don't know how many wild animals actually do get sick from what they eat.
    Still, I would hope that MOST of the good raw diets are safe for the dogs if handled properly. It is just not for me.

  • 09/28/2012 03:43pm

    Lucy G., what you are doing is looking after the humans around you, first and foremost, so clearly you value them more than the hype of those who don't have adequate training and can't provide you with credible, reliable references for their comments.

  • 09/28/2012 04:05pm

    Lucy ~

    The real question here is why the AVMA only chose to target raw diets when the evidence has shown that the diets that they are supporting have also had an issue with pathogens. I am not here to debate the raw v. dry controversy but rather to point out that the AVMA's policy on feeding raw diets to cats and dogs should have been about safe handing practices of ALL pet foods.

  • My guess is...
    09/28/2012 04:28pm

    I am not a vet so I cannot speak for the AVMA. I would guess, however, that they are leery of raw diets because careless people may handle these foods improperly and could end up causing illness in the household. I really don't think that most vets are trying to defend careless, greedy manufacturers of kibble or canned foods.
    I do a good deal of dog-and-horse-sitting. One of my clients feeds raw so when she gone, I feed it for her. She uses these frozen meatball-looking things that she thaws daily in the refridgerator in the dogs' dishes. It is all portioned out and everything is cleaned up afterward. The way she handles it is safe and I know she has her grandchildren and her elderly mother over frequently. Other people, however, are not so careful.
    I doubt manufacturers of raw diets are any better or worse than those who make kibble. Raw meat from the store is always suspect. I believe the AVMA is worried about cross-contamination or about food left out, spoiling and harming the animals themselves.

  • 09/28/2012 04:44pm

    Lucy ~

    My point is not to debate the raw diet v. kibble controversy. Research has shown that kibbles may also be a source of pathogen contamination and if they are not handled properly they may also pose a risk. During the past several months, there have been reports of illness in both adults and children associated with the feeding of a dry diet. From the CDC:

    "A total of 49 individuals (47 individuals in 20 states and two individuals in Canada) infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis were reported.

    The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Arkansas (2), California (3), Connecticut (2), Georgia (2), Illinois (4), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), Missouri (3), New Jersey (2), New York (5), North Carolina (5), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (3), South Carolina (2), Texas (1), and Virginia (2).
    Among the 24 patients with available information, 10 (42%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

    Epidemiologic and laboratory investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies linked this outbreak to dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single production facility in Gaston, South Carolina.
    Consumers should check their homes for recalled pet food and discard them.
    Salmonella is an important cause of human illness in the United States.

    http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/dog-food-05-12/index.html

  • 09/28/2012 05:38pm

    There is a big difference between safety of foods that are manufactured under regulations and those produced in a home kitchen where safety measures aren't followed, and no recalls are available. Even canned foods have recalls related to ingredient flaws, and all the pet food recalls I have encountered, *other than the melamine scandal* continually show no reported illnesses in pets.

    The single incident that you have quoted was a case where clearly the reporting of contamination was not done soon enough to prevent disease in humans, which was a shame, and I am sure will cost Diamond dearly. Diamond is known for their poor quality foods and I don't know anyone silly enough to use products with ingredients supplied by them if the person actually cares about what they are feeding.

    Your example is nowhere near the actual issue involved with raw meats, as we are experiencing in Canada, right this moment:
    http://www.inspection.gc.ca/about-the-cfia/newsroom/food-recalls-and-allergy-alerts/eng/1299076382077/1299076493846

    When I was feeding our dog with allergies I would sometimes feed home cooked meals, but based upon the DAILY reports I get that include a number of contaminated raw meats, I would never consider risking the health of my pet, or my family by feeding raw. This recall wasn't started here until there was contaminated meat found in California, whereas with pet food recalls with dry foods, they happen very quickly and again, pets are continually not affected by the time a recall is in effect.

    Yes, all foods need to be a concern, HOWEVER, raw meats have their problem perpetuated by non sterile kitchen facilities. Just not the same issue at all.

  • 09/28/2012 07:17pm

    I am not referring to home formulated raw diets but rather those that are commercially produced and are manufactured with strict quality control while under the FDA's watchful eye.

    Home formulated diets, whether they are cooked or raw should only be attempted under the supervision of a veterinarian that is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition or a technician that is board certified by the Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians. Members of these associations will always include instructions on the safe handling of raw ingredients when prescribing a homemade diet formula.

    I only cited the most recent FDA recalls on Diamond manufactured products as these stats are the most current and are easy to locate. Pathogens in dry diets have been a problem in the US for many years and if you would take the time to research the topic, you will find that the Diamond is only one in many salmonella recalls.

    Unfortunately, many commercial pet food companies will not disclose their co-packers. Your comment on people that have fed Diamond manufactured diets, "I don't know anyone silly enough to use products with ingredients supplied by them if the person actually cares about what they are feeding," is sadly judgmental and disturbing. I am envious that all of the people that you know are so well educated on pet food manufacturing processes and co-packers. People that care about their pets will generally choose diets based on the food's ingredients and nutritional analysis and may not be aware that co-packers exist. Many brands of dog food that were implicated in the latest Diamond Recall were premium diets and have been held in very high regard by the animal health industry. Even if one only chooses diets that are not manufactured by co-packers, they will not be immune to salmonella or e-coli recalls. That is why it is so important that the AVMA educates the public on the safe handling of ALL pet food and not just raw diets.

    Westcoastsyrinx this will be my last response to your posts. After doing some research on you, I have found that you are very active on blogs and message boards and seem to enjoy taking exception to people that may have an opinion that does not coincide with your beliefs. You have accused me of not having an open mind. May I suggest that you look inward for the same personality defect.

  • 09/28/2012 07:48pm

    So YOU aren't talking about the same issues that the AVMA were outlining on the website that Dr Coates recommended you read? Why are you in this discussion?

    As someone trained in nutrition, including food safety, I will again say I applaud the Delta Society for the stand they took on this and clearly there is no point in discussing it further as the above post is nit picking to get around acknowledging the truth in what I say.

    Anyone who has to resort to character assassination to try to make a point, will never understand the value of science, I think. JMHO.

  • 09/28/2012 08:46pm

    Why are YOU in this discussion as you reside in Canada? Shouldn't you be more concerned on what is going on at the CVMA?

    I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician with training in veterinary nutrition and food safety. Additionally, I was a general manager for the largest veterinary pharmaceutical distributor in the United States and am very familiar with commercial OTC pet food, Rx diets and their formulation. Additionally, I have visited on several occasions the manufacturing plants of Purina Pet Foods, Hill's diets, Waltham, Menu Foods, etc AND have received additional extensive training by these manufactures on nutrition, manufacturing processes and safe handing practices.

    Clearly, due to your personal biases against feeding raw diets, you are incapable of acknowledging that there are risks of pathogen contamination in ALL forms of pet food and that it is necessary to educate the public on safe handing techniques of ALL pet foods, regardless if they are raw, canned or dry. This ONLY point that I have been trying to make. I also question why the AVMA's and the Delta Society's feeding policy is only focused on raw diets and fails to address the issue of pathogen contamination in other forms of pet food.

    This truly is my last response to any of your posts as you are obviously incapable of conducting an educated, adult discussion on this issue.

  • You think we can't read
    09/29/2012 10:28am

    You ask: "Did Anyone Actually Read the AVMA Raw Meat Policy?" -- Oh, I see. Now you think we're illiterate. Yes, I read the policy. It essentially says that if you want to feed your dogs home-prepared RAW diets, make sure you COOK the food first. AVMA claims it's concerns is avoiding bacteria, as if no dog should ever consume any bacteria.

    If bacteria is so bad, how come the AVMA delegates did not likewise condemn commercial foods, since, according to the AVMA's own website, in the four months preceding this AVMA vote, over 60 commercial brands of dog and cat food were recalled, nearly all for "possible Salmonella contamination"?

  • Dog food companies lie
    09/29/2012 10:42am

    "Dog food companies lie, and allergic dogs may die." Now we find that dog food companies lie about the ingredients of their products. But are the AVMA delegates upset about that? Oh, no. http://cavalierhealth.org/blog.htm#September_27,_2012

  • Debate my pets' vets
    09/29/2012 03:44pm

    You write: "If you are proponent [sic] of feeding raw animal-sourced proteins to your pet, I’m happy to debate the issue with you."

    I AM a proponent of feeding dogs and cats raw meats, because MY veterinarians recommend that I feed raw food to my dogs and cat. I see no point in debating the issue with you, but I'd love to listen to you debate with my vets, Drs. Joe Demers and Connie DiNatale, http://floridaholisticvet.com , both of whom have loads more experience about companion animal nutrition than you and 90% of the AVMA delegates do.

  • 09/30/2012 06:56pm

    Fact: Not one single case of human illness has ever been traced back to the practice of raw feeding a pet. EVER.

    Fact: Over a 125 cases of humans becoming ill have been conclusively linked to kibble feeding, as far back as 2006.

    Fact: There are hundreds of ways for us to become ill; pathogens saturate our environment and are unavoidable. Furthermore, there are dozens of well-known and long-documented per-related sources of Salmonella. Hedgehogs, reptiles, turtles, chicks and ducklings, to name just a few. Heck, petting zoos have been the source of thousands of human illnesses, including 165 cases of swine flu in the last two months alone and hundreds of E. coli cases every year!

    Fact: No other AVMA policy is so specifically targeted that it recommends that vets not use or recommend a certain product. NOT ONE.

    Why target something that has never been shown to cause illness while completely ignoring the many vectors that have been causing illnesses for YEARS?

    http://catcentric.org/2012/09/12/i-have-a-question-for-the-anti-raw-avma-veterinarians/

  • AVMA discourages raw but
    10/16/2012 04:40pm

    AVMA discourages feeding raw but encourages feeding commercially prepared foods, many of which contain harmful cancer-causing chemicals that are killing our pets? Is this reason to blindly follow their recommendations? Recommendations which may increase the chances of ruining your pets' health, rather than improving it?

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

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... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

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