From Factory to Food Bowl, Pet Food Is a Risky Business

Who would have thought that kibble could kill?

TOXIC, a companion volume to the Amazon international best-seller, TAINTED, offers a behind-the-scenes look at some of the most notorious pet food safety scandals of the current century.

Whether the subject is pentobarbital in canned dog food, aflatoxin in kibble, or Salmonella in commercial raw pet foods, TOXIC provides insight into pet food industry practices and gives pet owners tips to help keep their animal companions safe and healthy.

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A Short Excerpt

Chapter 2 – A is for Aflatoxin

Who would have thought that kibble could kill?

Certainly not Susan Patrick, an experienced breeder of Labrador Retrievers, who lost four dogs in December 2005.

The first dog died on December 8, 2005, two days after developing bloody diarrhea. By December 19th, four previously healthy Labrador Retrievers were dead, and others were showing symptoms of liver disease.

When a necropsy of one of the dogs determined the cause of death to be a poison rather than an infection, the search for the source began.

The first clue came in mid-December, when two sick Golden Retrievers were brought to the same animal hospital that treated Patrick’s dogs. The Goldens were exhibiting the same symptoms as her Labradors.

Dr. Gluckman, the veterinarian who had examined Patrick’s dogs, learned that the Goldens had been fed the same food that Susan had fed her Labs—Diamond Premium Adult dry dog food.

Gluckman contacted Diamond Pet Foods to report his observations and also sent samples of the kibble to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (CUCVM).

On December 20, 2005, Diamond Pet Foods announced a product recall, advising consumers that the company had discovered aflatoxin in one of its products, which had been manufactured in Gaston, South Carolina. The recall notice gave no indication that any animals had died.

On December 23, 2005, the Cornell University Chronicle Online reported that the CUCVM hospital was caring for seven dogs suffering from food poisoning. The university’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center had received and necropsied the bodies of three dogs, finding liver damage in all three. In addition, the Center’s toxicologist had found aflatoxin in samples of Diamond Pet Foods.

Cornell was not the only veterinary school to become involved in the investigation. The University of Tennessee Center for Veterinary Medicine also studied a number of sick and dead dogs, performing necropsies on eight that were confirmed to have died from aflatoxin poisoning.

In all, the FDA was able to confirm reports of 23 dead dogs and an additional 18 ill dogs, all of whom had consumed a Diamond Pet Foods product.

About the Author

A graduate of McGill University and the University of Toronto, Phyllis Entis received her introduction to the field of food safety at the hands of Canada’s Health Protection Branch, where she spent the first seven years of her professional life immersed in Salmonella, Staphylococcus, E. coli and other bad actors from the microbial world.

After a long career in the food safety industry, Entis became a freelance consultant and writer. Her first book, Food Microbiology—The Laboratory, was published in 2002 by the Food Processors Institute. It was followed five years later by Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives, which was released by the American Society for Microbiology Press in January 2007.

From 2008 onwards, Entis continued to write about human and pet food safety issues for several publications, including Food Safety News, The Bark, and her own food safety blog, eFoodAlert. She also found the time to write and release a six-book mystery series, The Damien Dickens Mysteries.

In 2020, she released TAINTED. From Farm Gate to Dinner Plate, Fifty Years of Food Safety Failures, updating the material presented in her 2007 food safety book.

With this year’s release of TOXIC. From Factory to Food Bowl, Pet Food Is a Risky Business, Entis has achieved her long-standing goal of supplying pet owners with the information they need to understand the issues behind twenty years of pet food recalls and safety alerts.

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