Back in January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the shocking announcement that at least 70 pets died and more than 80 became ill after eating some Sportmix dry dog food products.
Seven months later, the statistics are even more disturbing. On Aug. 9 the FDA warned the manufacturer, Midwestern Pet Food, Inc., that 130 dogs may have died and 220 were sickened after eating the food.
The FDA started investigating Midwestern Pet Food in late December after the company had voluntarily recalled some of its dry pet food products that may have caused the deaths of 28 dogs. The recalled products contained aflatoxin, a toxic mold that can grow on corn and other grains used in pet food. At high levels, it causes illness and death in pets who eat the food.
In January, Midwestern expanded the voluntary recall to include all of its pet food products containing corn that were manufactured in the company’s Oklahoma plant.
In March, Midwestern recalled several brands of pet food manufactured at its Illinois plant — not for aflatoxin, but because samples tested positive for Salmonella. The FDA concluded that Midwestern’s food safety program seemed to be unable to significantly minimize or prevent Salmonella in its pet food.
According to the FDA warning letter, inspections of Midwestern’s various manufacturing plants revealed evidence of violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act as well as the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation. These violations were associated with the deaths and illnesses of all those dogs.
Samples of the dog food that the FDA tested contained extremely high amounts of aflatoxin — as much as 558 parts per billion (ppb). How scary is this? The FDA considers pet food to be adulterated if it contains more than 20 ppb of aflatoxin.
“It is imperative that manufacturers and distributors of pet foods understand their responsibility to comply with all requirements of federal law and FDA regulations and, when applicable, to implement a robust hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls program,” Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to hold companies accountable and protect animal health as a core element of the FDA’s public health mission.”
If Midwestern doesn’t respond in writing to the FDA with the specific steps they have taken to correct any violations, it could result in legal action, including product seizure or injunction, according to the FDA.
Midwestern hasn’t yet commented on the FDA warning. “As a fourth-generation family-owned company, Midwestern Pet Foods has been committed to ensuring that our products are safe and nutritious for nearly 100 years,” the company said in a statement back in January. “Until recently, throughout our long history, we’ve never had a product recall.”
A 23-page (!) list of all the company’s recalled products and their lot numbers is available on the Midwestern Pet Foods website.
Symptoms of Aflatoxin Poisoning
The symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning may include sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (a yellowish tint to your dog’s eyes or gums), and diarrhea. If you’ve been using the recalled products and your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should take them to your veterinarian right away. Some dogs show no symptoms yet still experience liver damage, so you should still have your pet checked out by your veterinarian.
You can report your dog’s Sportmix-related illness to the FDA online through its Safety Reporting Portal or by contacting your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. The FDA suggests working with your veterinarian to submit your dog’s medical records with your report.
If you have any of the recalled products, dispose of them in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them. Wash and sanitize pet food bowls, cups and storage containers. The FDA says there is no evidence that people who handle the food are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning.
For more information about the recalls, contact Midwestern Pet Foods Consumer Affairs at 800-474-4163, ext. 455 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.