COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A New Jersey family is suing a South Carolina pet food plant, saying their infant son was sickened by salmonella from food made there.
According to a lawsuit filed May 25, the Marlboro, N.J., boy spent three days in the hospital and suffered gastrointestinal injuries, diarrhea and pain - complications the family's attorneys say were caused because the family dog ate Diamond Pet Foods made at the company's Gaston plant. The company is based in Meta, Mo.
Officials have said that humans could pick up the bacteria by handling infected dog food, then not washing their hands before eating or handling their own food.
The family is also suing Costco Wholesale Corporation, saying the discount company should have known more about Diamond and its production facilities before selling food made at the Gaston plant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that 15 people were sickened across the country earlier this year because of salmonella at the South Carolina plant, which was closed from April 8 until May 4 as the company issued several rounds of recalls for food made there.
Diamond officials, who did not immediately return a message Thursday, have said they rectified the problem. Court papers did not list an attorney for the company.
The facility is the same one that, a few years ago, produced food contaminated by toxic mold. In 2005, a toxic mold called aflatoxin ended up in food made at the Gaston plant, and dozens of dogs died.
The company offered a $3.1 million settlement. The Food and Drug Administration determined the deadly fungus likely got into the plant when it failed to test 12 shipments of corn.
No animals were sickened during the recent salmonella outbreak, according to the Meta, Mo.-based company. When the plant re-opened in early May, Diamond said in a written statement that the company had taken corrective actions to get the facility up and running.
FDA officials have not said if they have identified the source of the salmonella outbreak. According to documents reviewed by The Associated Press, FDA officials flagged the South Carolina facility for shoddy contamination prevention efforts and messy food storage areas during an investigation into the salmonella outbreak.
FDA inspectors also found that Diamond was not doing enough to keep its products or their ingredients from being contaminated, according to documents obtained by AP under an open records request.
Incoming products were not undergoing enough analysis, wrote investigators, who also noted that they had seen workers touching filters without using gloves.
Diamond also was not keeping utensils and food storage areas clean enough, inspectors wrote, describing a packaging apparatus that had gouges that could easily harbor bacteria.
AP Repoter Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP