Dog food maker agrees to $3.1M settlement

A company that made contaminated pet food that killed dozens of dogs nationwide will pay $3.1 million in a settlement with pet owners, an attorney said Friday.

The pet food, which was contaminated with a mold called aflatoxin, was produced at Diamond Pet Foods' plant in South Carolina. The company will set up a fund to reimburse pet owners for the loss of their dog, veterinarian bills and the cost of any unreturned contaminated food, said attorney Jim Andrews, who represented a Knoxville, Tenn., family that sued the company.

Diamond Pet Foods, based in Meta, Mo., acknowledged that workers at its Gaston, S.C., plant failed to follow internal testing procedures to ensure its products were safe. The company made the acknowledgment after the Food and Drug Administration released a report showing the company has no record of test results for 12 shipments of corn in 2005, when grain tainted with the deadly fungus aflatoxin slipped into the plant.

The company contends it did nothing illegal, according to the settlement. Mark Schell, Diamond's assistant general manager, did not immediately return a telephone message.

Aflatoxin, a naturally occurring chemical that comes from a fungus sometimes found on corn and in other crops, can cause severe liver damage.

The contaminated pet food was sold in 23 states. Diamond recalled about 20 varieties of dog and cat food distributed across the country and overseas when a New York veterinarian said in December 2005 that she had linked a dog's death to the company's food.

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