It’s time for an update on the "pet food recall that won’t end," as The Christian Science Monitor put it.

First of all, the recall has been expanded to cat food. The Diamond website added a phrase to that effect, but the list of affected brands did not change. I assume this means that some cat foods within the lines of previously recalled dog foods are also potentially contaminated with Salmonella infantis bacteria. This jives with reports coming out of Canada that three cats became ill (two of whom subsequently died) in a shelter in Montreal after eating Diamond Pet Foods products.

These are the first reports of animal illness linked to the contaminated foods that I’ve seen, although the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that "Animal illnesses associated with recalled products have been reported to FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) consumer complaint system." Sixteen people in the U.S. and Canada have also been sickened.

I posted a list of affected brands on May 8, 2012. Solid Gold, which is manufactured at the Diamond plant in Gaston, SC, and Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult Dog Lamb & Rice have since been added. Owners should check the production codes on potentially contaminated bags of food and compare them to the latest lists provided on each manufacturer’s website.

Also, the FDA released a list of observations from the inspection its officers conducted between April 12 and April 20 at the Gaston plant. To paraphrase the report, four violations were noted:

  1. No microbiological analysis is conducted or there is no assurance that incoming animal fat will not introduce pathogens into their production and cause contamination of finished product. Also, the firm’s current sampling procedure for animal digest does preclude potential for adulteration after sampling and during storage in warehouse.
  2. There are no facilities for hand washing or hand sanitizing in the production areas where there is direct contact with exposed finished feed/food.
  3. Paddles in conveyor were observed to have gouges and cuts, which exhibited feed residues. The damage to the paddles may allow for harborage areas for microorganisms and are difficult to clean and sanitize.
  4. Firm utilizes cardboard, duct tape, and other non cleanable surfaces on equipment. These materials were observed to have residues adhering. The foam gaskets around access doors to the bucket elevators were observed in deteriorating condition and exhibited an accumulation of feed residues and dust.

The entire report is available from the FDA.

Talk to your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has been exposed to or sickened by food contaminated with Salmonella infantis. Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fever, and abdominal pain, although some individuals can harbor and shed the bacteria without any clinical signs. The same is true for human infections. Laboratory tests are available to determine whether a pet (or person) is infected with Salmonella.

This incident reinforces the recommendation that pet food should not be handled by the very young, the very old, or by people who are immunocompromised, and that washing your hands after handling pets and their provisions falls under the adage, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Gleb Semenjuk / via Shutterstock