By Bill Tomson
Fourteen human illnesses in nine states have been linked to salmonella-contaminated pet food, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.
The outbreak of a rare strain of salmonella comes several months after the FDA began a nationwide effort to test dog, cat, bird, hamster, reptile and even fish food for the bacteria that has a history of sickening pet owners.
The illnesses and the connection to dog food made by the privately owned Diamond Pet Foods were confirmed after state agencies tested open bags at the homes of victims and unopened bags, the FDA said.
Three human illnesses in Missouri, three in North Carolina, two in Pennsylvania, two in Ohio, one in Alabama, one in Connecticut, one in Michigan, one in New Jersey and one in Virginia have been linked to the outbreak. Five of the victims were hospitalized and there have been no deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Company officials could not be reached for immediate comment.
The specific dry dog food products being recalled by the company are Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice Formula, Diamond Puppy Formula and Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul Adult Light Formula.
Salmonella germs can be passed to pet owners by "handling contaminated food, not washing your hands properly after handling food, or through the stool of pets, where Salmonella germs can be shed for 4-to-6 weeks after a pet is infected," and FDA spokeswoman said.
There have been no reports of people getting sick after eating pet food, she said.
FDA officials began the nationwide effort to test pet food for salmonella contamination in October last year, taking samples from stores such as PetSmart Inc. (>> PetSmart, Inc.), PetCo, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Costco Wholesale Corp. (>> Costco Wholesale Corporation), Sam's Club and Target Corp. (>> Target Corporation).
CDC data shows 70 people got sick from January 2006 through December 2007 in connection with salmonella-tainted dry dog food produced in Pennsylvania.
-By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088; email@example.com