Tainted dog food may harm humans

The public is being urged to use caution when handling pet food since a Connecticut resident became sick after contact with dog food contaminated with the salmonella bacteria.

The warning, issued by the state departments of public health and agriculture, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with state public health officials to investigate 14 human illnesses in nine states that are linked to the recalled pet food. Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the recall after 11 brands of dry pet food produced by Diamond Pet Foods at its Gaston, S.C., facility were found to be contaminated with salmonella.

Bruce Sherman, director of the Bureau of Regulation and Inspection at the state agriculture department, said Tuesday that inspectors have identified about 80 stores in Connecticut that sell Diamond dog food and have begun inspections. All the stores visited thus far had removed the recalled food from their shelves, he said. The inspections are continuing.

Diamond dog food is sold mainly at pet supply stores and feed-and-grain stores, he said. Stores in Norwich and Groton were among those that carried the products, he said.

Consumers are advised to check their homes and to discard the recalled dog food. Anyone who believes they have become ill from contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten the food should contact their doctor. Symptoms of salmonella infection can include fever, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

The Connecticut resident who became ill was an adult who was hospitalized in February, said William Gerrish, spokesman for the state Department of Public Health. The person since has recovered.

Dogs that eat salmonella-contaminated food may become lethargic, vomit and have diarrhea and fever, or they may lose their appetites and have abdominal pain. Pet owners should contact a veterinarian if their dog has any of these symptoms. Several local veterinarians contacted Tuesday said they had not treated any dogs for illness related to the recalled food.

People can become ill by handling contaminated dog food and by touching pets or surfaces that have been contaminated. Washing hands for 20 seconds with hot water and soap is the best way to prevent illness. People also are advised to wash hands before and after handling pet food. Infants and children are especially susceptible to food-borne illness.

Brand names of the recalled products are: Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul; Country Value; Diamond; Diamond Naturals; Premium Edge; Professional; 4health; Taste of the Wild; Apex; Kirkland Signature/Kirkland Signature Nature's Domain; Canidae.

The recalled products were manufactured between Dec. 9 and April 7. Consumers can find the production codes and best-before dates at diamondpetrecall.com.

j.benson@theday.com

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