WARNING: Don’t let your kid eat dog food.

There’s certainly nothing out of the ordinary about a contaminated food lawsuit.  Unless the food in question is dog food.  That’s exactly what went down May 25 when a New Jersey father filed suit against Diamond Pet Foods in federal court claiming his two month old infant was sickened by salmonella-contaminated dog food.  This lawsuit comes on the heels of Diamond’s May 5 pet food recall due to salmonella contamination. The lawsuit alleges that the dog food, manufactured by Diamond, infected the infant with a rare strain of salmonella infantis.  That’s the same  strain identified in another outbreak allegedly caused by Diamond’s contaminated pet food.  That instance is claimed to have sickened 15 people in 9 states.

One key question left unaddressed by the complaint is how the child was exposed to the allegedly contaminated dog food.  We can safely assume, since the child was only two months old, that he did not ingest the food on his own.  It would appear that the most likely culprit was a parent failing to wash his or her hands after handling the dog food.  As Diamond’s recall notice says, people can become infected with salmonella by handling contaminated food “especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to this product.”

Another key issue in this case is whether the Diamond pet food purchased by the plaintiff was even contaminated with salmonella.  Samples of the dog food purchased by the family were sent to a Monmouth County laboratory for analysis but did not test positive for salmonella.  The plaintiffs’ attorney has suggested that the contamination could have come from an earlier batch of Diamond dog food purchased by the plaintiffs.  However, the plaintiffs were supposedly buying Diamond’s dog food for months and neither of their two dogs became ill.

It should be interesting to see if the plaintiffs are able to convince a jury that there is causal connection between the illness and the dog food.  Either way, you know a pet food company is having a rough go of things when they are getting sued for making a human sick.

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