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The Diamond Dog Food Recall and Its Impact on Pet Health and Nutrition

This A+ FRR Pet Nutrition FAQ discusses the 2006 recall of Diamond pet foods for dogs and cats due to the potentially deadly toxin aflatoxin and the 2007 recall due to melamine contamination. The article also discusses several items to consider from a pet health and nutrition standpoint.
May 22, 2007. Diamond Pet Foods has expanded its recall to include Nutra Nuggets Lamb Meal and Rice Dry Formula for Dogs with "Best Buy" dates of October 9-10, 2008, due to melamine cross-contamination resulting from the food being produced with other pet foods made for Natural Balance. The Nutra Nuggets dry dog food is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods and has tested positive for melamine and caused kidney problems in at least four dogs in California.

April 26, 2007. Diamond Pet Foods today announced it is withdrawing the following three canned dog food and cat food formulas manufactured by American Nutrition: Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Kitten Formula (5.5 oz. cans), Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Puppy Formula (13 oz. cans), and Diamond Lamb & Rice Formula for Dogs (13 oz. cans). The manufacturer for these formulas, American Nutrition, has initiated a recall for all canned products made in its plant that contain rice protein concentrate.

April 20, 2007. While Diamond Pet Foods does not currently have any of its own foods under recall in connection with the 2007 wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate recalls, it apparently manufactured the Natural Balance dog foods and cat foods that have been recalled.

The Diamond Pet Foods recall initiated in late 2005 that's listed below does not have any connection with the 2007 Menu Foods Pet Food Recall and the Diamond Pet Foods products listed above that were recalled in 2007 due to potential melamine contamination.

January 2008 Update. Diamond Pet Foods has agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle a lawsuit over its aflatoxin-contaminated dog food made in South Carolina that sparked a nationwide dog food recall in late 2005 and early 2006. The company announced that the money will be used to reimburse buyers of the recalled dog food that didn't return cans for a refund, as well as to pay veterinary bills for owners whose animals were affected by the dog food.

Diamond Pet Foods has not admitted any illegal wrongdoing; however, the company did acknowledge that the contaminated corn wasn't caught by its screening processes and that workers at its Gaston, S.C., plant failed to follow internal testing procedures to ensure its products were safe.

Additional information on the settlement and claims procedures is available on the Diamond Pet Food Settlement Website.

December 2005. A consumer alert has been released for contaminated Diamond pet foods for dogs and cats. Over 100 canine deaths and at least one feline fatality in the last month have been linked to Diamond pet foods contaminated by the potentially deadly toxin Aflatoxin, according to Cornell University veterinarians.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxic chemical byproduct that results from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops. The fungus typically develops on crops during severe high temperature stress and drought conditions followed by high levels of humidity.

Aflatoxin is similar to another toxic byproduct, Vomitoxin, that was found in Nature's Recipe brand dog food in 1995.

Dogs fed the contaminated Diamond foods could experience liver trouble, liver failure and even death as a result of the dog developing clotting problems and bleeding into its gastrointestinal tracts.

Scientists say about two-thirds of dogs that show symptoms from the toxin have died. While there have been far fewer reports of cat health issues, five Diamond cat food formulas have been recalled due to the presence of aflatoxin.

If your dog or cat is eating a bad batch of Diamond, Country Value or Professional brand pet food, stop using that food and take your animal to a vet immediately.

Pet Care News from A+ Flint River Ranch July 25, 2006 Update: Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine has developed protein tests that accurately indicate whether a dog's liver failure has been caused by the toxin aflatoxin. The Protein C Activity Assay is one of several tests Cornell veterinarians have been using to detect liver damage in seriously poisoned dogs, including those that have eaten contaminated Diamond Dog Foods. The blood test results are available within a day.

From a Pet Health Standpoint

This is certainly a rare and isolated case — in fact, it's the first pet food recall by Diamond in over 35 years of operation — but the Diamond recall news is the latest example to underscore just how important the quality of the food you feed your cats and dogs food is — it can literally make the difference between a long, healthy life for your pet and an unexpected, needless death.

From a pet care and nutrition standpoint, there are several items to note concerning the contaminated foods in this case:

  • Toxic mold on grains - Most pet food formula ingredient labels feature at least one variety of whole grain or processed grain, and many contain several types of grain. What the labels don't list, however, is the source and quality of the grains. It's important to research pet foods and select ones that only use grains purchased from major commercial suppliers and that have the grains tested and retested by specialized labs to ensure the highest possible quality — as well as to prevent the possibility of toxic molds being introduced into the pet foods. While grain is often cheaper when purchased from smaller or less reputable operations, the risk of toxic mold is greater. [More on Whole Grains in Pet Foods]
  • Corn used in dog foods - The use of corn in so many of Diamond's dog food formulas is also of some concern. While corn is a whole grain frequently found in cat food formulas, it's more difficult to digest by dogs (as well as humans) and can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. The feline digestive system can better utilize corn, and corn also delivers important dietary benefits to cats and kittens, but in dog foods it simply serves as a low-cost filler, albeit one that many manufacturers like Diamond use in order to save money.

    Corn passes right through a dog, providing little to no nutritional value. If a dog food, such as Diamond's Premium Adult Formula for Dogs, lists corn as the first or second ingredient on its label, the customer can expect to pay for up to 25% filler in that food. [More on Corn in Pet Foods]

  • Best by dates - In general, foods will spoil without some form of temperature control or preservatives. While natural preservatives such as mixed tocopherols prevent foods from becoming rancid, they generally have a limited peak freshness of only six to twelve months in ideal conditions (stored in cool, dry environments). After six months — or much sooner if stored in hot or humid conditions — the product's quality begins to quickly deteriorate.

    Chemical antioxidants like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin can extend the shelf life and reduce fat spoilage (rancidity) in pet foods and pet treats, but they have been shown to frequently result in dry skin, allergic reactions, dental disease, and poor health, as well as stimulate adverse effects on liver and kidney functions.

    The fact that Diamond foods manufactured between September and December of 2005 carry "best by" dates between March 1 and June 10, 2007 — 18 months from the date of production — is concerning. The ingredients labels for many of Diamond's pet foods show that mixed tocopherols are used in the formulas, but the listed "best by" dates contradict their use, or at very least, greatly overestimate the longevity of their efficacy. [More on Preservatives in Pet Foods]

  • Meat by-products - While not directly related to the pet food recall, a quick glance at the ingredients of Diamond dog food formulas and those of other pet foods shows that animal byproducts continue to constitute a large portion of many pet foods. Meat byproducts are ground, rendered and cleaned slaughtered meat carcass parts such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, heads, and intestines (and a small amount of feathers in the case of chicken byproducts) — yes, they are indeed as gross and disgusting as they sound.

    In many cases, byproduct meals are derived from "4-D" meat sources — defined as food animals that have been rejected for human consumption because they were presented to the meat packing plant as "Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled." Additionally, ingredients listed as "beef, chicken, and/or poultry by-products" on pet food labels are not required to include actual meat, and "rendered meat" on pet food labels can refer to ANY rendered mammal meat, including dogs and cats!

    Despite their questionable quality, animal byproducts continue to be used in the majority of lower-grade pet foods and even many of the larger name brands that market themselves as "premium pet food" manufacturers for one simple reason — they are cheaper to use than higher quality, human-grade meat sources. [More on Meat Byproducts in Pet Foods]

The concern over toxins like aflatoxin in the Diamond pet food recall and vomitoxin in the Nature's Recipe recall is just one of the many reasons Flint River Ranch goes the extra mile to ensure the safety and quality of its foods and the ingredients used in them. It's the reason Flint River Ranch purchases its grains from major human food providers like General Mills and not directly from small, independent farms, and then has the grains tested and re-tested for maximum quality control.

All Flint River Ranch pet foods and pet treats use only the highest quality grains and meat sources, and are guaranteed free of animal byproducts and chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. Flint River Ranch believes you and your pets are worth the extra time and cost needed to ensure the safety and quality of all ingredients used in its pet foods.

Additional Diamond Recall Details and News

Diamond issued the recall Wednesday, December 21st, 2005, for foods containing corn produced at its Gaston, South Carolina plant between September 1 and December 10. The recalled foods are marked with "best by" date codes of between March 1 and June 10, 2007. They contain an 11th or 12th digit, "G," signifying the Gaston facility.

The Diamond pet foods have been recalled in all 23 of the states serviced by the Gaston, South Carolina Diamond facility: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

While retail pet food stores typically do not carry Diamond pet foods, they are frequently carried by feed stores and general stores.

"Out of an abundance of caution, we have notified our distributors and recommended they hold the sale of all Diamond Pet Food products formulated with corn that were produced out of our Gaston facility," a release from Diamond states.

Symptoms to Watch For

Aflatoxin primarily affects the liver in dogs, with symptoms of potential illness including:

  • Loss of appetite – particularly a refusal to eat the pet food in question
  • Severe, persistent vomiting combined with bloody diarrhea
  • Discolored urine
  • Fever
  • Yellow whites of the eyes, yellow gums, and/or yellow in the belly or areas where hair is very thin

If your dog has consumed affected products and has clinical signs of aflatoxin, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.

Which Pet Foods Are Affected?

Fourteen dog food formulas and five cat food products have been recalled by Diamond. In addition to the Diamond brand, the pet foods are also sold under the Country Value brand and Professional brands. The following dog and cat foods are under recall:

  • Diamond Premium Adult Dog Food
  • Diamond Hi-Energy Dog Food
  • Diamond Maintenance Dog Food
  • Diamond Performance Dog Food
  • Diamond Puppy Food
  • Diamond Low Fat Dog Food
  • Diamond Maintenance Cat Food
  • Diamond Professional Cat Food
  • Country Value Puppy
  • Country Value Adult Dog Food
  • Country Value High Energy Dog Food
  • Country Value Adult Cat Food
  • Professional Chicken & Rice Adult Dog Food
  • Professional Puppy Food
  • Professional Large-Breed Puppy Food
  • Professional Reduced Fat Cat Food
  • Professional Adult Cat Food
December 30 Update: Tests by North Carolina officials have resulted in an expansion of the Diamond Pet Food recall after revealing high levels of a toxic substance in a batch of Diamond brand dog food that was NOT included in the previous recall. In addition to the products listed below, the recall now also covers 40 pound bags of Diamond Pet Foods Professional for Adult Dogs with the best by code of 29-Jan-07.

January 11 Update: Diamond reported on Wednesday, Jan. 11th, that it has narrowed the number of contaminated pet food products. Testing of more than 2,700 finished product samples conducted by independent laboratories has found that only Diamond Maintenance Dog and Diamond Premium Adult Dog formulas with "Best By" dates of April 3, April 4, April 5, and April 11, 2007, are potentially toxic. These products also will have a capital "G" (in reference to the company's Gaston, S.C., facility) in the 11th or 12th position of the date code (18 lb. to 55 lb. bags). The capital "G" will be in the 9th position on smaller 4 lb. to 8 lb. bags.

Diamond also announced on Jan 11 that 76 dogs have been confirmed dead from aflatoxin after eating the company's pet food.

What About the Kirkland and Chicken Soup Brands?

Costco's Kirkland Signature Series and the Chicken Soup for Pets line of pet foods are made by Schell & Kampeter, which also manufactures the Diamond Products. Kirkland is made at one or more of the Diamond plants.

While these dog food brands are not currently on the recall list, we have received feedback and questions from pet owners about dogs fed the Kirkland and Chicken Soup foods that have been exhibiting the same symptoms as noted with the contaminated Diamond foods. We haven't received or come across any conclusive evidence that these foods have been contaminated, but if you see any of the symptoms associated with aflatoxin poisoning, you should stop using the food immediately and consult a veterinarian.

As a proactive precautionary measure, product samples of the Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul and Premium Edge brands were tested along with the Diamond pet food brands, with Diamond reporting on January 11th that no signs of aflatoxin were found in any of the Chicken Soup and Premium Edge samples.

The FDA's Report on the Diamond Pet Foods Recall

An investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was launched after Dec. 20, 2005, when Diamond Pet Foods recalled about 1 million pounds of dried pet food made Sept. 1 through Dec. 7 (bearing use-by dates of March 1, 2007, through June 7, 2007).

The FDA recently released a report of its findings on the Diamond Pet Food case, wherein Federal regulators found widespread failure to test corn and other ingredients that went into the dog food made in the fall of 2005 at Diamond Pet Foods' plant in Gaston, South Carolina. Following the report's release, Diamond Pet Foods admitted that it failed to follow its own testing guidelines.

In the report, U.S. FDA investigators determined:

  • Tests could not be verified for more than half the corn samples arriving at the plant during the critical periods of September and October because the samples were missing. The samples were either lost or never taken, according to the FDA. Without them, the FDA was unable to determine exactly how much aflatoxin (if any) wound up in the dog food that used these batches of corn
  • Among the samples that were kept, FDA tests found aflatoxin ranging from 90 parts per billion to 1,851 ppb — four to 90 times the FDA's limit of 20 parts per billion for human and pet foods. Those samples represented four truckloads of corn the company tested and cleared and used to make dog food
  • In 16 samples of batches of dried dog food, aflatoxin was found at levels beyond the government's limit
  • The S.C. Department of Agriculture has provided aflatoxin testing to farmers, food manufacturers, and others free of charge as a public service; however, the test is not required by state or federal law. Diamond Pet Foods did not take advantage of the department's free aflatoxin testing service

The inspection also found that Diamond accepted shipments of wheat flour, rice bran, and chicken byproduct meal between Jan. 3 and 17, despite testing that found most of the ingredients did not meet the company's own content specifications for protein, moisture, fat, ash, and fiber.

Of 21 shipments of wheat flour accepted during the two-week period, 17 failed testing of three or more of the five specifications. All five accepted shipments of rice bran failed on four of five specifications, and six of seven accepted shipments of chicken byproduct meal failed four specifications tested.

The FDA's findings did not carry any penalties. Diamond Pet Foods reports it has taken the necessary actions to prevent these oversights from happening in the future.

A+ FRR Note: Flint River Ranch has no involvement with Diamond Pet Foods, and none of Flint River Ranch's all natural, healthy dog food formulas or cat food formulas are involved in this dog food recall or any other pet food recall.

Related Information:

FAQs: Pet Food Recalls

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