FDA Faults Plant Procedures in Pet Food Outbreak

Diamond Pet Foods’ failure to provide an adequate number of handwashing facilities, maintain sanitary equipment, and take all reasonable precautions to prevent Salmonella contamination contributed to illness in at least 16 people in nine states, the FDA said in a May 15 report.

There are three ways humans can develop Salmonella via pet food.

The manufacturer has recalled a number of batches of dry dog and cat food produced in its Gaston, S.C., facility between Dec. 9, 2011 and April 7, 2012 under about a dozen brand names, including Premium Edge, Nature’s Domain, and Kirkland Signature. Complete recall information can be found here.

Up to three illnesses a month from the rare Salmonella infantis strain found in the product are reported to PulseNet, according to the CDC. At least five people have been hospitalized in the current outbreak.

“Now that they’ve started looking for these cases, because of a couple of outbreaks that have occurred in the past several years, they’ve been finding more of them. Salmonella is found in dry pet foods and a lot of the treats, like pig ears and pig noses,” said Robert Buchanan, PhD, professor and director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Food Safety and Security Systems, who noted that canned pet foods are not generally a source of contamination. “It’s been a bit of a wake-up call for the pet industry in trying to find the root causes and do a better job of screening the ingredients. Some have done it better than others; it’s taking awhile to get the entire pet food industry to pay attention, but with the increasing number of human cases associated with these pathogens, more attention is going to be paid to this.”

Foods for companion animals are supposed to be manufactured to the same degree of safety as human foods in the United States, said Dr. Buchanan. “Of course, there are failures in safety with human foods as well.”

There are three ways humans can develop Salmonella via pet food, Dr. Buchanan explained:

• Cross-contamination by touching contaminated food with their hands and then putting their hands in their mouths or handling other food;

• Eating the food (“It’s not that common, but it’s not uncommon either,” Dr. Buchanan observed); or

• Petting or otherwise handling a dog that has developed salmonellosis, and then touching their own mouths or handling their own food.

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