Image: Dog being fed Ensure through a cyringe
Mary Ann Chastain  /  AP
A Chow named Cocoa is force-fed strawberry-flavored Ensure through a cyringe on Jan. 5. The dog suffered permanent liver damage after being exposed to aflatoxin in a batch of Diamond pet food and is not able to eat solid foods now. staff and news service reports
updated 5/10/2006 11:07:31 AM ET 2006-05-10T15:07:31

Diamond Pet Foods narrowed down which of its pet foods were contaminated with aflatoxin, a potentially lethal chemical which has killed dozens of dogs in the last month.

The company, which makes premium pet foods under labels that include Diamond, Country Value and Professional, said testing of more than 2,700 samples found that only its Diamond Maintenance Dog and Diamond Premium Adult Dog foods with “best by” dates of April 3-5 and 11, 2007, are contaminated.

Bags of the toxic food were shipped only to states east of Ohio, Diamond chief operating officer Mark Brinkman said.

"It is strictly on the East Coast," he told

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Last month, the privately held company recalled pet food distributed in 23 U.S. states because of aflatoxin.

Diamond Pet Foods officials began noticing a high incidence of contaminated corn deliveries at its Gaston, S.C., manufacturing facility in September — three months before the company issued a recall of potentially poisonous dog food.

The deaths of dozens of dogs nationwide have been linked to aflatoxin poisoning from eating contaminated food manufactured by the company at the South Carolina plant.

The company typically has had to reject about one or two truckloads of corn each year because it contained levels of aflatoxin that exceed federal limits, said Mark Brinkmann, the company's chief operating officer. But in September, the company began identifying the fungus on one or two truckloads of corn each week and rejecting the loads, he said.

The naturally occurring toxin found on grains is known to cause liver damage in pets.

The company began implementing a new test to detect the presence of aflatoxin on Nov. 30. But company officials now believe they shipped out contaminated dog food in October.

The company issued a wide recall after a New York veterinarian called to say she had linked the death of a dog with the company's food.

"We had no idea anything slipped through until we got a call from Upstate New York that our product was hot," Brinkmann said.

FDA investigation
Diamond had originally recalled all pet food made at its Gaston, S.C., plant from Sept. 1 through Dec. 10 while it waited for the test results.

Diamond spokeswoman Carol Anderson said 76 dogs have been confirmed dead from aflatoxin after eating the company’s pet food.

It's unclear how many dogs have been affected by the poisoned food. Other reports say as many as 100 dogs have been killed , although veterinarians are concerned that many other animals may have died without being diagnosed.

"We don’t have a good headcount on it at the present time," said Sharon Center, professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University Hospital for Animals in Ithaca, N.Y. "There is no central accounting area to count all this case load."

Cornell's hospital is currently evaluating four dogs for exposure, said Center. Cornell's veterinarians were among the first to recognize the toxin's affect on dogs who had died after eating lethal doses of the contaminated food. The stricken dogs suffered severe liver damage.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the state Agriculture Department have launched investigations into the manufacturing facility.

Diamond is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration's probe of the contaminated bags of food, said FDA spokesperson Michael Herndon. This is the agency's first known investigation of aflatoxin poisoning of pet food.

"We want to get to the bottom of what happened," he said.

Aflatoxin develops on crops during hot weather and drought, and was detected in several key growing states including Iowa and Illinois in 2005. Large quantities can cause cancer in humans and can be deadly to animals.

Owners who believe their dogs may have been exposed should see a veterinarian immediately, said Center.

The Associated Press, Reuters and's Jane Weaver contributed to this report.


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