Suit alleges infant got salmonella from contact with dog food
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A federal lawsuit in New Jersey alleging an infant was sickened by salmonella-contaminated dog food may be the first in the nation to hit the courts in the wake of a recent pet food recall.
At least 15 people in nine states and Canada have reportedly fallen ill as a result of contact with pet food made by Diamond Pet Foods, which announced the recall April 6.
Eisenberg v. Diamond Pet Food Processors, filed May 25 in federal court in Trenton, N.J., alleges that a 2-month-old baby became sick with diarrhea, fever and loss of appetite on April 11. A day later, his pediatrician sent him to St. Peter's University Hospital, where he spent three days and was diagnosed with salmonella. A stool sample later tested positive for the same strain of salmonella that spurred the recall, salmonella infantis.
The baby's father, Nevin Eisenberg of Marlboro, N.J., claims he bought a bag of a Diamond brand -- Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Dog Food -- at a Costco store in Morganville, N.J. The complaint does not specify how the baby became exposed to salmonella.
Mr. Eisenberg's lawyer, Elliot Olsen of PritzkerOlsen in Minneapolis, said the route of transmission to the child is uncertain but that it "might have happened through the parents' hands."
The recall notices say 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."
The Eisenberg family's dogs did not get sick, nor did the parents, and salmonella was not detected in the bag of dog food, which the Monmouth County Health Department sent to a state lab for testing after the baby became sick.
Mr. Olsen said he is not aware of any other case filed over the recalled foods and court records show no federal lawsuit of any kind against Diamond since 2011, before the salmonella problem came to light.
Mr. Olsen pointed out that the salmonella strain contracted by C.A.E. is uncommon and the same as the one that sparked the recall. "To have a child come up with this exact form of salmonella, which is relatively rare, it's epidemiologically pretty solid," he said.
Mr. Olsen also said that salmonella contamination would not be spread uniformly throughout the bag of food, which would explain the negative test result.
Though C.A.E. has recovered, he allegedly suffered "severe injuries to his gastrointestinal tract." He is at risk of kidney and liver damage and monitoring will be needed, Mr. Olsen said.
Neither Diamond nor Costco responded to a request for comment.
First Published June 4, 2012 12:00 am