Drought spurs food recalls

Seasonal drought may have contributed to a recent set of dry dog food recalls.

In less than one week, three pet food companies have announced dry dog food recalls due to aflatoxin levels that were detected higher than the acceptable limit.

Aflatoxin is a naturally occurring mold by-product that is dangerous to pet health if consumed in significant quantities. Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning include sluggishness and lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, a yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, and diarrhea.

Aflatoxins have been associated with the disease aflatoxicosis, and have received attention because of demonstrated carcinogenic effect in susceptible laboratory animals, according to the Cornell University Department of Animal Science.

On Dec. 8, Advanced Animal Nutrition recalled 50 pound bags of its dry Dog Power Dog Food.

The recall came on the heels of dog food recalls on Dec. 6 by both Cargill Animal Nutrition and Procter & Gamble, who both cited high aflatoxin levels as well.

Larry Hirsch, president of Advanced Animal Nutrition, says that this year’s drought may have contributed to higher than usual levels of the aflatoxin mold.

"The fungus is naturally there in corn," Hirsch said. "During drought years, it is a lot higher."

Hirsch said the aflatoxin occurs in corn, an ingredient in Advanced Animal Nutrition dog food and many other pet foods. Corn is one of the commodities with the highest risk of aflatoxin contamination.

Pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination is often caused by prolonged drought conditions. During drought years, water stress and high-temperature stress contribute to mold infestation and toxin production, according to Cornell University.

According to Cornell, aflatoxins are considered unavoidable contaminants of food and feed, even when good manufacturing practices have been followed. By Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, animal feed may have no more than 20 ppb of alflatoxin.

Advanced Animal Nutrition manufactures its food in a facility offsite, where the company also tests ingredients for aflatoxin levels. The affected products were manufactured between Jan. 4, 2011 and Nov. 18, 2011, according to a company news release.

Affected Advanced Animal Nutrition products include:

· Dog Power Adult Maintenance Formula 21-12 Dog Food, 50 pound bags

· Dog Power Hunters Formula 27-14 Dog Food, 50 pound bags

· Dog Power Hi-Pro Performance Formula 26-18 Dog Food, 50 pound bags

The recall applies to products with Packaging Date Codes K0004 through K1322. Affected products were distributed in Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, where retailers have been instructed to remove the affected products from shelves.

Consumers can return any of the affected Advanced Animal Nutrition, Cargill, or Procter & Gamble products in either opened or unopened packages to their place of purchase for a full refund.

None of the companies have received complaints of animal illness due to aflatoxin levels.
Read more about the Cargill and P&G food recalls.