New study found that dozens of salmonella infections in toddlers have been linked to bagged dry dog food tainted with an uncommon salmonella strain called salmonella schwarzengrund.

Between January 2006 and October 2008, 79 people were infected, including 32 children age 2 or younger.

The manufacturing plant in western Pennsylvania was shut in 2008 and more than 23,000 tons of pet food sold under 105 brands were recalled.

The Salmonella outbreak was very troubling, experts said, because the food-borne illness affected young children so drastically. Salmonella can be serious in infants and the elderly.

Researchers of the study published in the September issue of Pediatrics said contact with pets and contact with the pet's environment can result in human infection.

Many of the infections occurred in homes where pets were fed in the kitchen which can quadruple the risk of illness according to scientists. Children younger than 5 should not be allowed to touch or eat pet food or pet treats and be kept away from pet feeding areas.

The bacteria can also multiply on the floor of the kitchen or remain in the pets’ bowls, one expert suspect.

“The most important thing a person can do is to wash hands right after handling pet food or treats or cleaning up after their pets,” said the paper’s lead author, Casey Barton Behravesh of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.