Contaminated Kibble Sickens 14 People


Multiple brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at their Gaston, South Carolina manufacturing facility has been linked to fourteen Salmonella infections in nine states, according to CDC. Five people were hospitalized.

There is no indication as to how many dogs may have become infected.

The 14 confirmed outbreak cases were reported by Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1). More than three-fourths (77%) of the victims are female. The outbreak patients range in age from less than one year to 82 years old (median 48 years).

All 14 individuals were infected with a single rare strain of Salmonella Infantis. The outbreak strain was found in unopened bags of three different dry dog foods manufactured at the Gaston facility.

It was a routine test carried out by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development that first pointed the finger at Diamond Pet Foods. On April 2nd, the agency’s lab found Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food that had been collected from a retail location on march 14th. CDC’s PulseNet system made the connection between the genetic strain recovered from the dog food and the strain of Salmonella Infantis that had sickened a number of people.

Interviews of the outbreak patients established that 70% of them had been in contact with a dog in the week before becoming ill. Four out of five people who could remember the type of dog food they had contacted identified a dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods.

Ohio, which reported two outbreak cases, was responsible for finding the outbreak strain from an opened package of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food collected from a patient’s home, and from an unopened bag of the same product obtained from a retail store. FDA found Salmonella in a sample of Diamond Puppy Formula obtained during an inspection of the Gaston manufacturing plant.

On April 6th, Diamond Pet Foods recalled a single production batch of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice, due to “potential” contamination with Salmonella. The recall notice assured consumers that “[n]o illnesses have been reported and no other Diamond manufactured products are affected.

The company expanded its recall on April 26th to include one production run of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula. This time, the company acknowledged that one bag of the dry dog food had tested positive for Salmonella. And instead of its previous blanket assurance, Diamond told consumers that “[n]o dog illnesses have been reported.” Four days later, Diamond added a limited number of production codes of Diamond Puppy Formula to the recall list, again assuring that no dog illnesses had been reported.

Delivery of products manufactured at Diamond Pet Food’s Gaston location has been suspended since April 8th. Although the company hasn’t specifically said so, it’s likely that production also has been suspended while FDA carries out its plant investigation. That investigation will include environmental sampling in the production and warehouse areas, as well as additional finished product and ingredient tests. I would be very surprised if the recall is not expanded to include all dry dog food manufactured at the Gaston plant over the last several months.

This is not the first time that Salmonella-contaminated dry dog food has been the source of human illnesses. Pet food produced in the Pennsylvania manufacturing plant of Mars Petcare US was responsible for a three-year long outbreak of Salmonella Schwarzengrund infections, beginning in 2006.

Dry dog food – kibble – is not a sterile product. As we have been reminded by this outbreak, it can be contaminated with Salmonella and should be handled with the same care as is used when handling other potentially contaminated foods, such as raw meats and poultry.

CDC offers this advice to pet owners:

  • Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. Consumers with questions about recalled dog food may contact Diamond Pet Foods at telephone number (800) 442-0402 or visit http://www.diamondpetrecall.com.
  • Follow the tips listed on Salmonella from Dry Pet Food and Treats to help prevent an infection with Salmonella from handling dry pet food and treats.
  • People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers. Infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.
  • People who think their animal might have become ill after eating dry pet food should consult their veterinary-care providers.
  • Read Additional Information for Pet Owners to learn the signs and symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs and cats, and to understand how to deal with possible Salmonella illness in your pet.

Also, be aware that dogs may be infected with Salmonella – and may shed the bacteria in their stool – without showing any outward symptoms of illness. If your pet has consumed a Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food, be especially careful to wash your hands after handling it, and supervise closely any interaction between children and your pet.

17 thoughts on “Contaminated Kibble Sickens 14 People

  1. If this is a rare strain of salmonella, does that mean a more specific test needs to be done to detect it in pet feces? How often are there false negatives? I have been dealing with three sick pets, one has passed away and am trying to get to the bottom of it all.

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    1. A standard Salmonella test will be able to detect this strain of Salmonella in pet feces. Once the Salmonella is recovered from the feces, then a more detailed DNA profile of the bacteria would need to be done in order to determine whether it is the same Salmonella as has been found in the pet foods and in the human illnesses.

      The difficulty in finding the Salmonella is that it is not necessarily present in each and every stool from an infected pet – especially one that has not be overtly ill, one that has been treated with antibiotics, or one that is on the mend. It may take several tries before a positive is found.

      Your veterinarian should be arranging for/conducting the Salmonella tests on feces samples from your pets and should report any positive findings directly to FDA, in addition to giving you the results.

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  2. Before holding Diamond to the coals, many of the ingredients they take in to make their product could be the source of contamination. Even if their sanitation and check steps are done in accordance to policy, if a supplier sends tainted ingredients, they are trusting the COA from the supplier that they are getting a quality ingredient. Having worked in the industry, MANY times, they are not getting what they think they are. Samples evaluated from large sub lots can hide a many problems. Look deeper than the end manufacturer.

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    1. John,

      Even with a COA, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to take every necessary step to verify that the ingredients are not tainted, that the plant sanitation is according to GMPs and that the finished product is safe. I agree that sampling can miss a contaminant, but contamination of multiple (at least three) different production lots manufactured on different dates indicates a deep-rooted problem in the facility that should have been detected and corrected by the manufacturer.

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      1. And I agree with your statements as well. From my few years working as an environmental microbiologist in the pet food industry (yes I was the one LOOKING for salm and other pathogens in our plants), I agree it is a systemic problem through the entire pet food industry. Literally I am surprised we didn’t make many workers and consumers, let alone pets, very very ill.

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        1. John, would you be willing to be interviewed? Your insight and experience in the field would be a valuable contribution to consumers. I write about the PFI (Poisoned Pets) and so often I have wished I could speak to an insider. Your identity would be protected from the public if you wanted to remain anonymous. At least consider it.

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    2. If this is a rare strain of salmonella, does that mean a special test needs to be performed on a fecal sample to detect it in pets? How often is there a false negative/postive with the test? I have three pets who have been sick and one (only 8 months old) passed away on April 16th. I fed a brand manufactered at the SC plant.

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  3. From the CDC report, 4 of the 14 people cited a relationship with a Diamond pet food product, not all 14.

    Is the strain unique that they all must be connected, or is it possible there were different sources?

    “4 identified dry dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods that may have been produced at a single facility in South Carolina.”

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    1. Erich, only five of the 14 people who were ill could remember the brand of dog food that they were in contact with; four of those five named a Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food. All 14 people were infected with a single genetic strain of Salmonella Infantis (the “outbreak strain”). Ohio and Michigan recovered the outbreak strain from packages of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul (Ohio) and Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice (Michigan).

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      1. The CDC report states only 7 of 10 people could remember any contact with a dog.

        And with only 4 people citing a Diamond product, and the CDC report stating 0-3 cases are normal, it seems possible some of the cases were contracted through other means.

        The CDC report does not claim all 14 cases are linked to Diamond, using the word some.

        “Multiple brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at a single manufacturing facility in South Carolina have been linked to some of the human Salmonella infections. “

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  4. Costco just called me to say that some of their Kirkland Dog food products was produced in this factory and may have been infected with Samonella

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  5. Great piece Phyllis!

    I agree with the speculation that other brands manufactured at that same plant are likely to be recalled in the coming days and weeks.

    I was informed that a major pet food distributor was instructed by Diamond to pull ALL their product, including the private label brands manufactured by Diamond at that plant.

    Diamond will not release to the public the names of the other brands manufactured at that specific plant.

    When manufacturers choose secrecy and silence over transparency, it breeds fear and mistrust, leading consumers to imagine the worst.

    Like

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