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Preliminary FDA Inspection Report Cites Flaws at Diamond Pet Foods Plant

Diamond Pet Foods, the company behind a massive recall of dry dog food due to Salmonella contamination that has sickened at least 16 people, was not taking “all reasonable precautions” to ensure the safety of its product, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection report.

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The Form 483 report, posted by the FDA late Tuesday afternoon, was the result of a week-long inspection that began April 12 after an outbreak of human Salmonella Infantis infection was traced to contaminated pet food manufactured at the Diamond Pet Foods plant in Gaston, S.C.

The report states that Diamond was using cardboard and duct tape on some of its equipment and that there were damaged paddles on the conveyor. The inspectors also noted that some surfaces at the facility were encrusted with food residues.

FDA inspectors specifically listed these four observations:

OBSERVATION 1

All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source.

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. Also, the firm’s current sampling procedure for animal digest does (sic) preclude potential for adulteration after sampling and during storage in warehouse. On 4/13/12, an employee was observed touching in-line fat filter and oil with bare hands.

OBSERVATION 2

Failure to provide hand washing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed.

Specifically, there are no facilities for hand washing or hand sanitizing in the production areas where there is direct contact with exposed finished feed/food.

OBSERVATION 3

Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination.

Specifically, paddles in conveyor (South or Middle conveyor leading to the screeners going to packaging) 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.

OBSERVATION 4

Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.

Specifically, 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.

Diamond Pet Foods has said, on its website, that it is audited “regularly by a highly respected independent laboratory for food safety, quality and palatability” and that its products go through 141 ingredient tests and 10 final product quality and safety checks prior to shipment.

Phyllis Entis, who has assiduously monitored the outbreak and the various recalls related to it on her eFoodAlert blog, asked Tuesday, “Can anyone tell me how this company, with its self-proclaimed attention to product quality and safety, managed to miss the ongoing presence of Salmonella Infantis in its finished products for at least four months?”

Entis notes that the oldest batch of food in which a government lab found Salmonella was produced on Jan. 3 and 4, 2012, yet Dec. 9, 2011 was chosen as the earliest production date for recall. “This suggests that the contamination was present somewhere in the production environment for five months without being detected by the company’s quality assurance program,” Entis wrote.

As of May 11, at least 15 people in nine states and one person in Canada had been confirmed infected with Salmonella from contact with the contaminated dry dog food or from contact with a pet that had eaten the tainted product, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The FDA has not yet revealed how many complaints it has received about pet injuries possibly related to the contaminated food.

Diamond Pet Foods recalled nine brands of dry pet foods manufactured at its Gaston plant between Dec. 9, 2011 and April 7, 2012. Several other companies whose food was also produced in the facility have joined the recall. See eFoodAlert for the most up-to-date information on the recall and product distribution.

The CDC offers the following advice:

- Salmonella germs are transmitted from animals to humans and humans to humans by the fecal oral route. Salmonella germs can be shed in the stool of pets for 4 to 6 weeks after infection.  (And infected pets may not have any outward symptoms of illness.)

If your pet is diagnosed with Salmonella infection, please talk to your veterinarian about taking precautions to minimize spread of this germ. A mild bleach solution can be used to clean areas that may be contaminated with Salmonella germs.

- Follow these simple guidelines to prevent getting a Salmonella infection from your pet:

After contact with animal feces (stool), wash your hands well with soap and running water. Wash your hands as directed in the handwashing instructions.

Be sure to wash your hands with soap and running water after handling or feeding your pet. Wash your hands as directed in the handwashing instructions.

Clean up after your pet. If you have a dog, use a plastic bag to pick up the stool, and clean up the stool while on walks or from the yard and dispose of the stool in a tightly sealed plastic bag. If you have a cat, scoop the litter box daily and dispose of the stool in a tightly sealed plastic bag.

Do not share food with your pets.

- If anyone in your household becomes ill with diarrhea and has bloody stools, fever, or diarrhea lasting more than 3 days, he or she should seek medical care. If you believe you or someone you know became ill from contact with a contaminated food, including dry pet food, please contact your county or city health department. Please refer to your state health department website to find more information about how to contact your local health department. Reporting illnesses to your local health department helps them identify potential foodborne disease outbreaks. By investigating foodborne disease outbreaks, public health officials learn about possible problems in food production, distribution and preparation that may cause illness.

- If your pet develops diarrhea or appears sick, contact your veterinarian. Do not feed your pet any more of the recalled products. Dispose of the products immediately.

- You can report illnesses associated with pet food in two ways: (1) call the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in your state, or (2) report electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. Reports should include product details such as brand name, production code (Example: BDR0105E2XJW), expiration date (Example: Best by 3-APRIL-2013), manufacturer or distributor, and location of purchase. Reports also should include medical information.

- More information regarding How to Report a Pet Food Complaint can be found on the FDA website.

The FDA says the recalled pet food does not need to be tested. “The recalled product should be viewed as contaminated and disposed of properly.  FDA already knows that the product is potentially contaminated and a recall is in place,” said Laura Alvey, deputy director, communications staff, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, in an email.

© Food Safety News
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