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Toxic pet food recalled

Jan 10, 2006 | Blethen Maine Newspapers

Toxic pet food, believed responsible for at least 100 dog deaths nationally, may have been sold in Maine. But state officials say no such poisonings have been reported here.

Some bags of Diamond, Country Value and Professional brand pet foods have been recalled because they are contaminated.

Diamond Pet Foods, the company that produces all three brands, says some bags contain high levels of aflatoxin, a naturally occurring toxic chemical that comes from a fungus found on corn and other grains. The toxin causes severe liver damage in animals.

Diamond says it distributed the contaminated food to 23 states including Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Dr. Don Hoenig, Maine's state veterinarian, said he has alerted veterinarians here to the possibility of contaminated food, and to watch for dogs and cats with liver poisoning.

As of Monday, Hoenig said he has heard no reports of poisonings in Maine.

Neither had Norma Worley, head of the Animal Welfare Division of the Maine Department of Agriculture, or William Bell, executive director of the Maine Veterinary Medical Association.

Bell said his association held its annual meeting in Portland last weekend and none of the vets in attendance spoke of food contamination.

"If it was something that people felt alarmed about, someone would have mentioned it," Bell said.

A spokesman for Hannaford Bros., Maine's largest supermarket, said Monday the chain does not sell Diamond, Country Value or Professional pet foods.

The brands were not available Monday at the Augusta Wal-Mart or Shaw's supermarket.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has launched an investigation into the contamination and says that at least 76 dogs nationwide are believed to have died as a result of eating contaminated Diamond Pet Foods.

But researchers at Cornell University believe the number is higher and estimate at least 100 dogs have died. They fear most pet owners are not aware of the recall because it was issued during the busy holiday season.

Diamond officials say they are doing what they can to help affected pet owners.

"It's going to take some time to take care of all these customers, and we're going to do it," Chief Operating Officer Mark Brinkmann said.

The company recalled products that were manufactured at its Gaston, S.C., plant from September to November 2005. Based on sample testing, Diamond has narrowed down the tainted batch to what was produced on Oct. 11, 2005, Brinkmann said.

Diamond says recalled products can be identified by the date code and "Best By" dates listed on the back panel of the package.

Recalled products will have a capital "G" (which refers to Gaston) on the date code, and "Best By" dates between March 1, 2007, and June 10, 2007.

Diamond has promised to reimburse pet owners for vet bills and other costs associated with the aflatoxin poisoning, which officials now believe may include pets in Europe and other foreign countries.

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