The law firm of Pritzker Olsen, P.A. filed what is believed to be the first lawsuit against Diamond Pet Food Processors and Costco Wholesale Corporation for damages caused by pet food contaminated by Salmonella. The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey (case number 3:12-CV-03127-JAP-LHG) on behalf of an infant who was hospitalized with a Salmonella Infantis infection.
The pet food in question, Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Dog Formulated with Chicken & Vegetables, has been the subject of a nationwide recall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with state and local health departments have identified an outbreak of human illnesses linked to this and several other brands of dog food produced by Diamond Pet Food Processors.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff began experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, including severe diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and pain, on or about April 11, 2012 He was admitted to St. Peters University Hospital in New Jersey, where he was treated for salmonellosis. The bacteria cultured from the patient proved to be the same rare genetic subtype found in other human and product samples associated with the outbreak and recall.
The plant where the food was manufactured in Gaston, South Carolina was found to be in violation of several food safety laws. The FDA inspected the plant on April 12, 2012 and stated that the company was not taking “all reasonable precautions to ensure that production procedures to not contribute contamination from any source.” Violations included a lack of microbiological analysis, no hand washing and hand sanitizing facilities, and poorly maintained equipment, containers, and utensils that were difficult or impossible to clean.
Nationwide, 15 people have been sickened by the recalled pet food, and one person in Canada has been sickened. The latest CDC update on the outbreak reports that illnesses that occurred after April 13, 2012 may not yet be reported.
Brendan Flaherty, an attorney with the firm, said, “Any sort of Salmonella contamination is dangerous, including in dog food. It is very easy for the bacteria to spread throughout a household and this poses particular danger to those most vulnerable to illness – the very young, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Given the expanding scope of the recall, we expect to see many more human illnesses.”
Victims of foodborne illness can suffer lifelong consequences, including reactive arthritis, kidney failure, hypertension, myocarditis, colitis, and diabetes. The Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention has conducted studies on this issue and states that patients need long term follow-up medical care after a foodborne illness to address potential complications.