Multiple brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at their Gaston, South Carolina manufacturing facility has been linked to fourteen Salmonella infections in nine states, according to CDC. Five people were hospitalized.

There is no indication as to how many dogs may have become infected.

The 14 confirmed outbreak cases were reported by Alabama (1), Connecticut (1), Michigan (1), Missouri (3), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (1), Ohio (2), Pennsylvania (1), and Virginia (1). More than three-fourths (77%) of the victims are female. The outbreak patients range in age from less than one year to 82 years old (median 48 years).

All 14 individuals were infected with a single rare strain of Salmonella Infantis. The outbreak strain was found in unopened bags of three different dry dog foods manufactured at the Gaston facility.

It was a routine test carried out by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development that first pointed the finger at Diamond Pet Foods. On April 2nd, the agency’s lab found Salmonella in an unopened bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food that had been collected from a retail location on march 14th. CDC’s PulseNet system made the connection between the genetic strain recovered from the dog food and the strain of Salmonella Infantis that had sickened a number of people.

Interviews of the outbreak patients established that 70% of them had been in contact with a dog in the week before becoming ill. Four out of five people who could remember the type of dog food they had contacted identified a dog food produced by Diamond Pet Foods.

Ohio, which reported two outbreak cases, was responsible for finding the outbreak strain from an opened package of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food collected from a patient’s home, and from an unopened bag of the same product obtained from a retail store. FDA found Salmonella in a sample of Diamond Puppy Formula obtained during an inspection of the Gaston manufacturing plant.

On April 6th, Diamond Pet Foods recalled a single production batch of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice, due to “potential” contamination with Salmonella. The recall notice assured consumers that “[n]o illnesses have been reported and no other Diamond manufactured products are affected.

The company expanded its recall on April 26th to include one production run of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula. This time, the company acknowledged that one bag of the dry dog food had tested positive for Salmonella. And instead of its previous blanket assurance, Diamond told consumers that “[n]o dog illnesses have been reported.” Four days later, Diamond added a limited number of production codes of Diamond Puppy Formula to the recall list, again assuring that no dog illnesses had been reported.

Delivery of products manufactured at Diamond Pet Food’s Gaston location has been suspended since April 8th. Although the company hasn’t specifically said so, it’s likely that production also has been suspended while FDA carries out its plant investigation. That investigation will include environmental sampling in the production and warehouse areas, as well as additional finished product and ingredient tests. I would be very surprised if the recall is not expanded to include all dry dog food manufactured at the Gaston plant over the last several months.

This is not the first time that Salmonella-contaminated dry dog food has been the source of human illnesses. Pet food produced in the Pennsylvania manufacturing plant of Mars Petcare US was responsible for a three-year long outbreak of Salmonella Schwarzengrund infections, beginning in 2006.

Dry dog food – kibble – is not a sterile product. As we have been reminded by this outbreak, it can be contaminated with Salmonella and should be handled with the same care as is used when handling other potentially contaminated foods, such as raw meats and poultry.

CDC offers this advice to pet owners:

  • Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. Consumers with questions about recalled dog food may contact Diamond Pet Foods at telephone number (800) 442-0402 or visit http://www.diamondpetrecall.com.
  • Follow the tips listed on Salmonella from Dry Pet Food and Treats to help prevent an infection with Salmonella from handling dry pet food and treats.
  • People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers. Infants, older adults, and persons with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness.
  • People who think their animal might have become ill after eating dry pet food should consult their veterinary-care providers.
  • Read Additional Information for Pet Owners to learn the signs and symptoms of salmonellosis in dogs and cats, and to understand how to deal with possible Salmonella illness in your pet.

Also, be aware that dogs may be infected with Salmonella – and may shed the bacteria in their stool – without showing any outward symptoms of illness. If your pet has consumed a Diamond Pet Foods dry dog food, be especially careful to wash your hands after handling it, and supervise closely any interaction between children and your pet.