I like to think that if I buy my dog Maya high-end food—if I spend twice as much as I have to on a bag of kibble—she will be safe from all the potential nastiness of cheap dog food. But I am reminded, once again, that my trust in pet food manufacturers to sell high-quality, safe, nutritious food for my animals may well be misplaced.
Diamond Pet Foods initiated a recall on April 6, involving a single batch of kibble that had been contaminated with salmonella. The recall has now been expanded eight times, and has been extended to include cat food. This time, the problem is potential contamination with Salmonella. It is primarily pet owners who are getting sick, though pets can also contract salmonellosis. So far, 16 cases of human illness associated with pet food have been reported by the CDC. Diamond says that no pet illnesses have been reported to them. But since pet illnesses and deaths are not tracked by any state or federal agencies, it is hard to know whether and how many animals may have become sick.
What bothers me most, I think, is that the FDA report issued after a week-long inspection of Diamond's South Carolina plant suggests serious inattention to the quality of pet food (you can look at the actual report here). The report notes a failure to take reasonable precautions to ensure that production procedures don't introduce contamination, a failure to conduct microbiological analysis on incoming animal fat (to test for pathogens), absence of any hand washing or sanitizing facilities in areas where workers had direct contact with finished feed product, and the use of dirty, poorly maintained equipment. I am also bothered, as are many others, by the fact that no one carefully tracks animal illnesses or deaths in the U.S.
What to do?
1. Check to see if you have purchased any of the possibly contaminated batches of food. Here are the Diamond brands currently included in the recall:
• Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
• Country Value
• Diamond Naturals
• Premium Edge
• Taste of the Wild
• Kirkland Signature/Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain
• Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Dog Lamb and Rick
2. This is not a good time to sample your dog’s kibble to see how it tastes. Although eating dog contaminated dog food is obviously a bad idea, you can also get sick from handling the food and not washing your hands. SO,
3. Wash your hands after you feed your dog or cat. (It may be a good idea to wash your hands before, too, to keep their food clean.) Also, wash your hands extra carefully after cleaning up dog or cat poop, since Salmonella can be transmitted through contact with feces of an infected animal, and dogs and cats can be asymptomatic. Salmonellosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be transmitted between humans and other animals.
4. Signs of salmonellosis in dogs and cats include diarrhea, fever, vomiting, decreased appetite, and abdominal pain. Same for humans. If your pet shows signs of gastrointestinal illness, take him or her to the vet. Salmonellosis is treatable.
5. This might be a good time to consider feeding your dog or cat a homemade diet (though the cleanliness of human meat is no sure thing, as we know from the number of recalls related to human food). If you plan on making your own food, most veterinarians recommend consulting with a veterinary nutritionist, to make sure your animal’s nutritional needs will be met.
Here is a more information about the recall:
Diamond has a website with information about the recall.
One of the most recent news reports, in the Christian Science Monitor, is here.
The website dogfoodavisor maintains an updated list of dog food recalls. Diamond Pet Foods also has a website with recall information.
eFoodalert, a website focused on food safety, has a very informative posting on the recall.