Problems with food from Diamond Pet Foods may be more widespread than
originally thought after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced
contaminated dog food had been found at a second Diamond manufacturing
According to the FDA, a surveillance sample of Diamond Naturals Small
Breed Adult Lamb and Rice collected by the state of Ohio from the Diamond
Meta, Mo. plant has now yielded a positive for Salmonella Liverpool. The
strain from the Missouri plant is not the same strain of Salmonella found
at the Gaston, South Carolina plant in April. The strain from the South
Carolina plant has led to a human outbreak of the illness.@
Diamond has issued a recall for the Diamond Naturals Small Breed Adult
Lamb and Rice product from the Missouri facility.
Additional investigational steps include analyzing consumer complaints to
determine if they are related to this outbreak and continued state
surveillance to determine whether any recall expansion may be required.
The FDA says Diamond is working with FDA to ensure adulterated products
are not on the market.
|May 25, 2012
By: Heather Biele, DVM
A dog owner in the Chicago area has filed a class action lawsuit alleging that his 9-year-old Pomeranian died as a result of eating Nestlé Purina’s Waggin’ Train Yam Good dog treats. The fatality and resulting lawsuit are the most recent in a series of events illustrating the public’s growing anxieties over an apparent connection between chicken jerky treats from China and a surge of unexplained illness in dogs.
According to the lawsuit, filed on April 18 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Dennis Adkins of Orland Park, Ill., the dog became ill and died of kidney failure less than two weeks after consuming the treats in March. Adkins says he gave one of the treats to his dog daily for two days and that no other changes were made to the dog’s diet. His other Pomeranian was not fed the treats and did not become ill. The suit names as defendants Waggin’ Train LLC, the manufacturer of the product; Nestlé Purina Petcare Co., the corporation that owns Waggin’ Train LLC; and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the distributor.
The lawsuit states that although Nestlé Purina and Waggin’ Train had received complaints of more than 500 incidents in which dog treats containing chicken jerky imported from China caused dogs to become sick or die, they continued to market their product as being “wholesome” and placed no warnings concerning the product on the packaging. Additionally, it states that Nestlé Purina and Waggin’ Train knew there was a substantial risk of death or harm associated with its dog treats and intentionally concealed known facts concerning the safety of the dog treats in order to increase or maintain sales.
Keith Schopp, spokesperson for Nestlé Purina and Waggin’ Train, states, “We believe the claims made in the lawsuit to be without merit and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves. We can say that Waggin’ Train products continue to be safe to feed as directed.”
The lawsuit brings eight counts against the defendants by Adkins and on behalf of all consumers who purchased the chicken jerky dog treats. The allegations include breach of implied and express warranty, consumer and common law fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, and strict products liability with defective design or manufacture and failure to warn. Adkins is seeking an excess of $5 million for compensatory and punitive damages and costs of the suit.
The case is just one of many reported incidences of illness in pets in association with the consumption of chicken jerky products. Numerous complaints concerning Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats sickening or killing dogs can be found on the Internet and have sparked the creation of petitions and social media groups by and for pet owners who have lost their pet to illness that they believe is associated with the treats.
Dating back to 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been investigating a potential connection between the illnesses reported and the treats and has tested a number of samples for contaminants and toxins. However, according to the FDA, scientists have been unable to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. Unless a contaminant is detected and there is evidence that a product is adulterated, the FDA is limited in the regulatory actions it can take.
The FDA did issue cautionary warnings to the public concerning chicken jerky treats in September 2007 and issued a Preliminary Animal Health Notification in December 2008. The number of complaints declined during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010, the agency reports, but an increase in consumer complaints prompted the FDA to issue a cautionary update again in November 2011. Since that issuance, there has been a steady rise in complaints regarding the chicken jerky products,with more than 900 cases reportedly affected by consumption of these treats, the FDA says.
No recalls have been issued for Waggin’ Train or any brand of chicken jerky treats to date. On the company’s web site, Waggin’ Train addresses consumer concerns and continues to maintain the integrity and quality of their chicken jerky treats, asserting a comprehensive food safety program and strict quality assurance teams dedicated to overseeing the various steps of the manufacturing process.
Despite the absence of a formal recall, the FDA recommends that pet owners monitor their dogs closely for signs of illness if they choose to feed chicken jerky treats. Symptoms of disease include vomiting, lethargy and anorexia, and based on preliminary data, the problem appears more likely to occur in small-breed dogs that are fed the treats regularly or in amounts exceeding the labeled feeding recommendations. Veterinarians who suspect a pet illness associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats are urged to report the case to the FDA immediately.
A Diamond Pet Foods manufacturing facility in South Carolina never took
reasonable precautions to ensure that production procedures did not result
in contamination, an inspection by the Food and Drug Administration
The inspection, which took place between April 13, 2012 and April 20, 2012,
made four observations of unsanitary practices at the plant.
Contamination was the key issue FDA inspectors addressed in their report.
“Specifically, 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,” FDA inspectors
wrote, noting that an employee was observed touching an in-line fat filter
and oil with their bare hands. “Also, the firm’s current sampling procedure
for animal digest does preclude potential for adulteration after sampling
and during storage in warehouse.”
The FDA also honed in on the equipment used to process the food, writing
that the equipment was not maintained adequately enough to prevent possible
Damage to paddles in conveyers makes the equipment difficult to sanitize,
leading to the potential growth of microorganisms, the FDA revealed upon
Diamond also failed to properly maintain its equipment, using items such as
cardboard, duct tape, and other non-cleanable surfaces on equipment
surfaces, allowing residues to accumulate.
The FDA also observed a lack of hand washing facilities in the production
areas where workers have direct contact with finished food.
The FDA’s inspection report comes after a widespread recall of dry dog food
by Diamond Pet Foods. So far, the recall has been associated with 16 human
illnesses of salmonella contamination; at least five of those cases have
resulted in hospitalization.
Animals are experts at adapting to pain and illness and often don’t show physical symptoms until a disease is in an advanced stage. Routine blood testing helps veterinarians detect illnesses and infections early.
Treatment is often less invasive and less costly when a disease is in its infancy, but more importantly, early medical intervention can save your pet’s life and greatly increase the chance of a complete recovery.
Kim Downes, DVM, ofTexas’sAAHA-accreditedAnimalHospital ofRowlett & DiagnosticCenter, recommends young, healthy dogs and cats undergo blood tests at least annually. Senior pets should be tested every six months.
|Blood tests won’t hurt your pet, but not having them done could. Downes says, “An adverse reaction to simple blood collection procedures is extremely rare in our experience and far outweighed by the knowledge gained from the results.”|
Downes elaborates, stating, “In general, the number of [tests] will increase as the pet ages. We have frequency recommendations based on a pet’s overall health, age, chronic medications or health problems, and any anesthetic procedures being planned for that patient… A typical screening for patients of all ages includes a chemistry panel and a complete blood cell count [CBC].”
Veterinarians use CBCs to monitor a pet’s response to some treatments and to evaluate a pet for anemia, infections, and leukemia. The blood-chemistry panel helps your veterinarian monitor your pet’s organ function.
Your veterinarian will likely recommend an annual blood test to detect heartworm infections, as well. Downes notes, “The Heartworm Society changed its guidelines a few years ago to encourage all practitioners to test annually and administer year-round prevention. Annual testing allows us to detect infections earlier and increase the successfulness of any necessary treatment.”
|Behind the Scenes: Drawing Blood
As with any procedure, veterinary professionals take care to minimize your pet’s stress during a blood draw.
Cindy Hauser, a certified veterinary technician at AAHA-accredited Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in Colorado offers reassurance, “We do the draws as quickly as possible and get the pets right back to their owners. We always give the pet a cookie. We want the animals to have a good experience and not associate hospitals with trauma.”
Hauser explains that blood draws are done in a quiet, separate area, and elaborates, “We always have two technicians involved.”
Occasionally, pets must be anesthetized for blood draws, such as when blood needs to be drawn from an infected wound or other sensitive location.
Some owners are concerned their animals might be muzzled, but Hauser explains, “We rarely muzzle an animal unless the owner recommends that we use a muzzle or if the owner brings their pet in muzzled already.”
Downes explains that even if your pet is young and healthy, routine blood testing is necessary to establish a baseline against which your veterinarian can compare future test results.
“Last year’s food contaminations provided a sobering example in which regular screening can be very valuable,” says Downes. “We had several patients whose previous lab reports documented no detectable renal problems prior to the contaminated food exposure. The historical data from regular screenings can be invaluable in developing that patient’s baseline and trends.”
Blood tests won’t hurt your pet, but not having them done could. Downes says, “An adverse reaction to simple blood collection procedures is extremely rare in our experience and far outweighed by the knowledge gained from the results.”
Prices vary according to the type of blood draw, whether anesthesia is required, and whether the blood can be tested in-house.
Ask your veterinarian which tests are particularly relevant for your pet’s age and unique circumstances. Based on your pet’s results, your veterinarian may recommend additional testing.