Diamond pet food recall expands again, violations found

Diamond Pet Foods has issued yet another recall, this time for its small breed dog food.

In case you are losing count, this is at least the eighth round of recalls in the past six weeks since the discovery of a salmonella-tainted batch of food made in a South Carolina plant.

Since the recall 16 pet owners in 15 states - including two in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey - and in Canada became sick after handling the food and now we hear reports of two cats at a shelter in Montreal that were sickened after eating Diamond brand food.

Eleven brands of dog and cat food are made in the Gaston, S.C. plant operated by Diamond Pet Foods, including Costco under the Kirkland name.

Other brands affected include Chicken Soup for the Pet Lovers Soul, Canidea and Taste of the Wild, as well as several Diamond brands.

The latest recall involves Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Dog Lamb & Rice Formula samples, 6 pound and 18 pound bag sizes, manufactured on Aug. 26, 2011, due to potential exposure to Salmonella. No illnesses have been reported connected to that batch of food.

For full information on what is being recalled read the details on the Diamond site here.

We wondered why the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued no notice of the recall nor provided the public with any information about the individuals who fell ill here and got this answer from the state:

Salmonella outbreaks are sometimes associated with food items; sometimes we cannot make the connection. When the item (or some other exposure linked to human illness) is specific to Pennsylvania or originates in Pennsylvania, we do send out “advisories” (usually in the form of a press release). On the other hand, when a situation is occurring in multiple states across the country, and the food comes from outside PA, we generally rely on the CDC’s and FDA’s efforts, along with standard food recalls announced by the producer or manufacturer. In the current situation, this dog food, which was produced in South Carolina, was recalled nationally by the manufacturer in cooperation with the FDA.

A day later the Health Department issued a warning about contaminated shellfish that may or may not have been sold in Pennsylvania. When we inquired were told the difference in the two cases was that the federal government had not yet issued a recall so the state felt it needed to do so.

How would the state backing up the federal government and issuing its own statement have hurt? It certainly would have helped spread the word that two Pennsylvania pet owners were made ill by a bad batch of dog food and that consumers ought to be careful about handling pet food - whether tainted or not. Of course we have no idea where in the state the food was purchased or how ill these people were.

Perhaps readers of Philly Dawg will spread the word to fellow pet owners of this seemingly endless recall.

Lab tests indicated those who fell ill were infected with a rare strain of salmonella Infantis, which was detected Apr. 2 after a routine test of dry dog food revealed contamination, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration conducted a week-long probe and found numerous violations at the South Carolina plant, according to the Christian Science Monitor

“All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures to not contribute contamination from any source,” its report said, noting that the factory’s screening process for possible contaminants wasn’t thorough enough.

Other violations: Factory workers were seen handling sensitive equipment with bare hands; there weren't enough hand-washing stations throughout the plant (even in areas where raw meat was being handled); the factory used damaged equipment with holes and cuts, which would make the tools difficult to clean properly.

Here's the timeline according to the Monitor:

Despite these findings, the company didn't issue a second recall until a week after the inspection was over, involving a single production run of its Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul brand. On April 30, it issued another expansion of the recall, this time involving puppy food. On May 3, the federal government announced it had linked 14 cases of salmonella in adults to Diamond's dog foods. On May 4, Natural Balance Pet Foodsand WellPet LLC, makers of Wellness, announced a recall of their dog foods made at Diamond's plant. From there, the recalls kept coming.

People can become sick by handling the tainted pet food or through contact with an animal that has eaten the contaminated food. Experts advise washing hands thoroughly after feeding pets or picking up animals. Also, clean litter boxes daily.

Pet owners who are unsure if the product they purchased is included in the recall, or who would like replacement product or a refund, may contact Diamond Pet Foods toll free at 1-866-918-8756, Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST. Recalled products should be discarded.

Salmonella infections can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness can last up to a week and most people recover without treatment. In some cases, severe diarrhea can require hospitalization.