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Company recalls tainted pet food

17 deaths may be linked to pet food contaminated with fungi

story.sick.dog.jpg
A golden retriever being treated in Ithaca, New York, after eating the tainted food.

FACT BOX

The affected products:

Diamond Low Fat Dog Food

Diamond Hi-Energy Dog Food

Diamond Maintenance Dog Food

Diamond Performance Dog Food

Diamond Premium Adult Dog Food

Diamond Puppy Food

Diamond Maintenance Cat Food

Diamond Professional Cat Food

Country Value Puppy

Country Value Adult Dog

Country Value High Energy Dog

Country Value Adult Cat Food

Professional Chicken & Rice Senior Dog Food

Professional Reduced Fat Chicken & Rice Dog Food

Professional Adult Dog Food

Professional Large-Breed Puppy Food

Professional Puppy Food

Professional Reduced Fat Cat Food

Professional Adult Cat Food

(CNN) -- One of the nation's largest dog food producers has recalled some of its products in 22 states after receiving reports that they caused death and illness, a company executive said Thursday.

In a letter to thousands of its suppliers, Diamond Pet Food announced it found aflatoxin in products made at its Gaston, South Carolina, plant, said Chief Operating Officer Mark Brinkmann.

Products made at the Gaston facility are shipped to Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Vermont and Virginia.

Five cat food products and 14 dog food products were recalled. (View recall informationexternal link)

Aflatoxin is a poisonous substance produced by fungi that grow on grains, including corn.

Brinkmann said he wasn't sure how many animals fell ill from the toxin, but the 22 states' veterinarian's offices reported a total of 17 deaths and 24 illnesses believed linked to the tainted pet food.

Investigators were at the South Carolina plant Thursday trying to determine when the contamination began, state Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said.

"We were pulling samples yesterday and this morning," he said.

In its recall announcement, Diamond states that its in-house analysis has determined that "shipments were definitively clear of aflatoxin after December 1."

Symptoms that an animal may have ingested aflatoxin include yellowing of the whites of the eyes or gums, bloody vomiting or stools, lethargy, loss of appetite and increased water consumption.

Since other illnesses can cause the same symptoms, it is important for a veterinarian to check any suspected cases, experts said.

Brinkmann said the company was alerted to the problem last Friday by a veterinarian in New York state, who said he had seen three dogs that were exhibiting symptoms associated with liver disease.

"They were all three on one of our foods," Brinkmann said.

The company issued the recall Wednesday for foods containing corn produced at the South Carolina plant between September 1 and December 10.

The suspect items are marked with "best by" date codes of between March 1 and June 10, 2007. They contain an 11th or 12th digit, "G," signifying the Gaston facility.

The plant routinely takes samples of each half hour of production and is sending those samples to laboratories as part of an investigation into how the contamination occurred, Brinkmann said.

He urged consumers to check any product they may have before feeding it to their pets.

Diamond Pet Food, a family-owned company, is based in Meta, Missouri, outside Jefferson City.

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