A federal lawsuit claims that a baby became infected with the Salmonella pathogen from tainted dog food. The New Jersey Law Journal believes this may be the first lawsuit in the nation resulting from the ongoing Diamond Pet Foods recalls and outbreaks.
As we’ve written, at least 16 human illnesses and now two pet illnesses and one pet death, have been linked to Diamond Pet Foods, but only scanty information has being released. Recalls have been expanded eight times and include dry cat and dog food contaminated with the Salmonella pathogen. The recall began with one batch of Diamond Pet Foods; Diamond manufactures Diamond, Premium Edge, Kirkland Signature, and a number of other pet food brands. Illnesses have spanned at least nine states and Canada.
The problem included a one-week inspection by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) at the Diamond Pet Foods’ Gaston, South Carolina plant. The first recall was announced on April 6. The FDA faulted Diamond for not releasing adequate information on the recalls and revealed a number of violations at the Gaston facility. “All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures to not contribute contamination from any source,” said the FDA report, which also stated that the facility’s screening process for potential contaminant is inadequate. The investigation also revealed factory workers handling sensitive equipment with bare hands; insufficient hand-washing stations throughout the plant, even in where raw meat was handled; and damaged equipment, with holes and cuts, which would make the tools difficult to clean properly, were used.
According to the baby’s father, Nevin Eisenberg, he purchased a bag of Diamond brand dog food—Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Dog Food with chicken and vegetables—at the Costco Wholesale Corporation store in Morganville, said The New Jersey Law Journal. Court papers do not indicate how the baby came in contact with the contaminated dog food, transmission likely occurred via the parents’ hands or some other common contact between the pets’ and baby’s food, according to the filing. Neither the Eisenberg parents nor their dogs were sickened and Salmonella was not detected in the bag of dog food, which was sent to the state health lab by the Monmouth County Health Department.
The lawsuit, filed in Trenton, New Jersey last week, alleges that the Eisenberg’s two-month-old infant was sickened with diarrhea, fever, and loss of appetite on April 11. The next day, his pediatrician sent him to St. Peter’s University Hospital, where he remained for three days, said The New Jersey Law Journal. The baby was diagnosed with Salmonella poisoning; his stool sample confirmed that the Salmonella strain that sickened him matched that involved in the Diamond Pet Foods outbreak, the rare Salmonella infantis.
Diamond Pet Foods has not issued details on cat food brands and batches aside from advising consumers to check the bag’s product code. Consumers can check “best by” dates and specific product codes bagged food and compare these to either information at diamondpetrecall.com or the FDA’s Animal and Veterinary recalls page at: http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/recallswithdrawals/default.htm.
Diamond Pet Foods did not issue a second recall until after the inspection was completed. Meanwhile, not only has the firm been forced to continually expand recalls, its distributors—Natural Balance Pet Foods and Well Pet LLC, among others—have issued their own recalls for foods manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods.
The Gaston plant was also responsible for a mold-contaminated food scandal linked to dozens of dog deaths nationwide in 2005 and a $3.1 million settlement. The plant was also involved in a 2009 cat food recall over insufficient thiamine, a critical feline nutrient.