FDA investigating pet food for lethal levels of toxin

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, is investigating certain pet food products that may contain potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin. At least 28 dogs died after eating the now-recalled Sportmix pet food, which is manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods.

Midwestern Pet Foods voluntarily recalled a total of nine lots of the dry pet food last week after the Missouri Department of Agriculture tested multiple samples and discovered the elevated aflatoxin levels.

Aflatoxins are poisonous substances produced by certain kinds of fungi that are found naturally the world over. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which can contaminate food crops such as corn used in the manufacture of pet food. As well as being dangerous to pets, aflatoxins pose a serious health threat to humans and livestock.

The affected pet food was distributed nationwide via both online and brick-and-mortar vendors.

Although the FDA stresses that the investigation is ongoing, the agency says it’s “sharing the facts we have so far because the levels of aflatoxin found in the recalled pet food are potentially fatal.”

The FDA has stated that they’re aware of at least 28 dogs who ate the recalled pet food and subsequently died as well as 8 others who became sick, although details are scant. And while the recall includes cat food as well as dog food, no cats have so far been reported ill after eating it.

  • Symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning in pets include sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice, and diarrhea. In severe cases, aflatoxin toxicity can be fatal.
  • In some cases, pets may suffer liver damage but not show any symptoms.
  • Veterinarians who suspect aflatoxin poisoning in their patients should report the cases through the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal or by calling their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

It’s not the first aflatoxin scare to make headlines in the past year—on September 2, Sunshine Mills issued a voluntary recall of five lots of dog food due to high levels of aflatoxin, although, to date, no deaths or illnesses were reported in connection with that recall, which originated after Louisiana health officials discovered elevated aflatoxin levels in five lots of the food.

In humans, exposure to aflatoxins has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer.

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