Diamond Pet Food has discovered aflatoxin in a product manufactured at its facility in Gaston, S.C., prompting a recall and warning to pet owners that the food formulated with corn at the plant could be toxic.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring toxic chemical by-product from the growth of the fungus Aspergillus flavus on corn and other crops.

Pet owners are advised to consult a veterinarian immediately if their pet is showing any symptoms of illness, including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, yellowish tint to the eyes and/or gums, and severe or bloody diarrhea.

"We have notified our distributors and recommended they hold the sale of all Diamond Pet Food products formulated with corn that were produced out of our Gaston facility," Diamond said in an alert on its Web page Monday. (See complete list of products and consumer alert).

The products are marketing under the main brand names Diamond, Country Value and Professional. The company noted that products manufactured at its facilities in Meta, Mo., and Lathrop, Calif., are not affected.

The Gaston facility date codes are unique from other Diamond facility codes in that either the 11th or 12th character in the date code will be a capital "G" (in reference to Gaston). The range of date codes being reviewed are "Best By 01-March-07" through Best By "11-June-07."

Diamond said its quantitative analysis records substantiate that Diamond's corn shipments were definitively clear of aflatoxin after December 10. As such, "Best By 11-June-07" date codes or later are not affected by this notice.

List of affected states

States served by the Diamond facility in Gaston include Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky (eastern), Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Vermont and Virginia.

"We are rapidly analyzing retained samples of all products produced in Gaston so we can isolate specific lot numbers impacted and provide this information to our distributors, retailers and customers as quickly as possible," the company stated.

Pennsylvania warns pet owners

In a news release Tuesday, Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff alerted pet owners in the state of the contamination.

The affected Diamond pet foods that are sold by nearly 200 retailers in Pennsylvania may be contaminated and could lead to pet illness or death, Wolff said.

"The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is working with South Carolina officials and pet food distributors in Pennsylvania to contain and remove certain potentially dangerous food from the market," said Wolff. "The safety of Pennsylvania's animal population is important to the Department of Agriculture, and I urge all pet owners to check the labels of their pets' food and call their veterinarians with any signs of illness."

The Pennsylvania news release lists Diamond Pet Food retailers by city in Pennsylvania.

See the www.diamondpet.com Web site for a list of dealers in each of the affected states. Find a dealer in any state with this map.

SOURCES: Diamond Pet Food media advisories on its Web site and a news release from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.