When the Center for Disease Control announced 14 people (up to 16 now) had become ill linked to Diamond manufactured pet foods on May 4, questions arose. Further information provided by the Michigan Department of Agriculture causes some serious questions to arise about these recent Salmonella recalls.
It all began with a recall announced by Diamond Pet Food on April 6, 2012. This initial recall notice was for one variety of dog food, Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice stating it had the “poteintial for Salmonella contamination.”
About a month later – May 4, 2012 – we learned that the ‘potential’ of salmonella contamination was much more than potential; the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that 14 people had been infected with a strain of Salmonella linked to the dog food produced by Diamond Pet Food. Plus, we learned that four days prior to Diamond’s announcement of this first recall – April 2, 2012 – Michigan Department of Agriculture detected Salmonella in a bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice dog food.
But the CDC announcement did not provide information as to when Diamond was alerted to the news that one of their foods tested positive for Salmonella and when Diamond was alerted to the news that human illness was linked to their pet food.
So, I picked up the phone and called the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. April Hunt promptly returned my call (by the way April Hunt is a member of AAFCO). I explained that the CDC report stated Michigan Department of Agriculture found the Salmonella positive in the Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice dog food. Ms. Hunt confirmed this. She shared that under a grant provided by the FDA, Michigan is now testing pet food for pathogens (such as Salmonella) instead of only testing for nutritional content. As part of this new testing program, random testing of dog food provided a positive Salmonella result on April 2, 2012 in the Diamond Naturals dog food.
When was Diamond Pet Foods notified? Ms. Hunt told me the same day, April 2, 2012. The positive Salmonella was also reported to FDA on April 2, 2012.
Within a day or two, the connection was made to the South Carolina manufacturing plant.
Although we concerned petsumers wish we could be notified immediately, recall procedure must be followed and it certainly appears that this first recall announcement was done in a relatively timely fashion. However, the first Diamond Recall press release stated they were “voluntarily recalling Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice…as a precautionary measure, as the product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.” The ‘voluntary’ statement was not completely accurate; Michigan Department of Agriculture had the positive Salmonella test – there was no option but to recall the dog food.
Ms. Hunt of the Michigan Department of Agriculture also shared that the connection to consumer illness was linked to this dog food on or about April 5, 2012; Diamond Pet Food was alerted to the connection of human illness to their pet food at the same time – on or about April 5, 2012.
This on or about April 5th connection to human illness appears to tie into the notice that manufacturing had shut down at the South Carolina pet food plant (which we learned later occurred on April 8th).
The very first recall notice sent out by Diamond clearly stated no illness is connected with this recall. By the second recall notice – April 26, 2012 – Diamond had altered their press release to state “no dog illnesses have been reported.” However Diamond had not issued the warning that human illness had been confirmed to this pet food.
When Michigan Department of Agriculture confirmed the connection to the strain of salmonella to the Diamond dog food, they learned one of the sick humans reported with Salmonella Infantis was a Michigan resident. Follow up communication with this individual, they learned that this person was feeding three types of pet food – two of which were manufactured by Diamond. Neither of the two manufactured by Diamond pet foods that caused this person to become ill were Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal and Rice dog food (the original food found positive for Salmonella). Thus at this point, the same strain of Salmonella that was found in the Lamb Meal and Rice dog food was confirmed to cause illness in a human who fed their dog another Diamond brand and a private label brand manufactured by Diamond. Michigan Department of Agriculture told me this information was determined around “week of April 9th” and was provided to Diamond in the same time frame.
From the information provided to me by the Michigan Department of Agriculture, early on in this recall (week of April 9th) Diamond was aware that two of their products (Lamb Meal & Rice Naturals dog food and a Chicken Soup variety) had tested positive for Salmonella, at least one human illness was linked to another of their foods and to another brand they manufacture. Yet, it wasn’t until weeks later – end of April to early May – that the remaining recalls were announced.
April 26 – Chicken Soup recall (confirmed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture testing)
April 30 – Diamond Puppy recall
May 4 – Extended Diamond pet food recall including Kirkland, Taste of the Wild, and Natural Balance
May 5 – Wellness recall
May 5 – Canidae recall
May 8 – Solid Gold recall
Why was there such a delay?
I can’t help but wonder, would this recall have taken place at all if Michigan Department of Agriculture hadn’t found the initial positive for Salmonella in random testing. Since early this year, I have heard from numerous pet owners sharing instances of sick pets – many/most of which fed their dog and/or cat a Diamond manufactured pet food. Most all of these pet owners shared with me the pet illness was reported to Diamond and to FDA. Why does it appear that no one paid any attention (such as recalling the pet food) based on reports of pet illness? Why does it appear that a recall only occurred when a state government authority had a positive Salmonella test on the pet food and then connected the Salmonella strain to human illness?
I can’t thank the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Department of Agriculture enough (Ohio is who found the positive in Chicken Soup pet food). Please, if you are a resident of either of these states send them a quick email thanking them for investigating and playing a significant role in getting numerous pet foods recalled. For US residents in all other states, please write, call, or email your State Department of Agriculture and ask them to implement random pet food pathogen testing.
Ms. Hunt of Michigan Department of Agriculture shared two other significant pieces of information. One, that the exact cause of the Salmonella contamination has not been determined to date for these previous recalls. Two, her department is now busy with pet food investigations not related to these recalls. When I asked for explanation of what that investigation is, she shared that they are receiving “numerous reports daily” of sick pets that appear to be linked to Diamond manufactured pet foods not made at the South Carolina plant. Michigan is investigating these numerous reports and is working closely with FDA, other State Department of Agricultures, and the Michigan State Veterinary School lab. While I certainly hope nothing of recall significance is discovered – if there are health concerns let us hope they determine the cause quickly.
Again, thank you so much April Hunt for your openness and transparency in sharing information with me/pet owners!
One final note…to Diamond and to all pet food manufacturers that experience a recall…
Please, please, please – tell us everything you know as soon as FDA allows you to. While it might not be your preference to disclose pet illness or human illness linked to your pet food, the days of hiding this information are long gone. If we learn the facts from sources other than you – the pet food manufacturer – nothing can improve. Diamond, your website states that 151 checks are performed on the pet foods you produce; “141 ingredient tests and 10 final product checks.” Is Salmonella testing one of the final product checks? You owe your previous, existing, and potential customers a complete and full explanation. It certainly won’t be pleasant, but nothing less than full disclosure is what your customers deserve.