In April of this year, as part of routine product testing, a bag of Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal and Rice dry dog food tested positive for Salmonella. Diamond Pet Foods issued a recall for that product.
It was determined that the infected bag had been manufactured in Gaston S.C., so the Diamond team decided to close down the plant entirely to allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do a complete investigation and to try to find the source of the contamination. The plant was closed from April 9th to April 26th and during that time the FDA took more than 88 environmental swabs and more than 50 ingredient samples, all of which were salmonella negative.
But even after the plant had been thoroughly sanitized and reopened, Diamond received additional reports of Salmonella in food that was already in the market.
This lead them to widen their recall to include all products manufactured at the Gaston plant between December 9th 2011 and April 9th 2012 — when they had closed its doors to allow for FDA testing and the complete cleaning.
This recall went well beyond what was requested by the FDA, but Diamond felt it was necessary to be proactive in protecting its customers. Several million bags of pet food were recalled and during the height of the recall scientific testing cost up to $50,000 a week.
How Pet Mania Responded
Despite the measures Diamond was taking, Pet Mania didn’t want to take any chances. So the first week of June we pulled all Diamond products from our shelves and discontinued carrying all Diamond pet food brands, including both Taste of the Wild and Chicken Soup.
Since the recall Diamond has completely redesigned its manufacturing process, going from traditional pet food processes to a human-grade system. We were invited to come view the newly improved Gaston plant in September and what we found lead us to consider carrying Diamond products once more.
Changes at Diamond
Diamond has instituted a number of new measures to prevent future outbreaks. Perhaps the biggest change has been in how the plant itself is laid out. Previously, the facility used an open floor plan; now the plant is divided up into three color-coded sections—green, yellow and red—that denote what part of the process the products are in. Red is for raw or partially cooked materials and green marks finished product ready for consumption.
The new safety measures even affected the way the tour of the facility was conducted; it began at the end, in the green zone, and then worked backward through the manufacturing process, ending in the red zone, to prevent contamination of finished product.
In addition to these measures Diamond brought in a third-party microbiology laboratory in June to provide unbiased testing of its products throughout the production process. The lab is located on premises and tests ingredients as well as finished products. Now, after manufacturing, every single SKU is held until it can be tested; only then is it allowed to leave the property. Diamond is currently the only manufacturer testing products after production; other companies only test their ingredients. This should help ensure Diamond has the safest food on the market.
The entire staff — all 150 Gaston employees — also sat through a basic microbiology course so they would better understand the reasons behind the new procedures, as well as be able to better foresee any future problems. Equipment, including dryers, coaters and coolers, were retrofitted to allow for easier cleaning and are now swabbed before and after cleaning to measure the effectiveness of those new sanitation procedures. All major equipment in the post-processing, or post-thermal, step is cleaned every two days instead of weekly or biweekly.
By testing the product multiple times throughout the manufacturing process, taking newly stringent measures to ensure cleanliness and safety and only allowing products out into the market after they have been cleared a final time, Diamond has reached a new level of safety.
What This Means for Pet Mania Now
Since we stopped carrying Diamond Pet Food products many of our customers have asked specifically that we bring these products back. However, before we did so we wanted to make sure that Diamond was taking every possible precaution to ensure there would be no additional outbreaks.
After learning about these new measures and seeing them ourselves during the tour, we feel that Diamond has made significant changes to their processes and is now offering only the safest possible products for sale.
We carefully considered both the feedback we’ve received from our customers and the new improvements we witnessed in Gaston and have decided to bring back Taste of the Wild products.
They will be available again at all three Pet Mania stores (Raleigh, Holly Springs and Wake Forest) starting January 1st, 2013.