Dog deaths, illnesses linked to pet food containing aflatoxins

Published on January 13, 2021
Yellow dog holding a food bowl

FDA issues alert; food recall expands

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting veterinary professionals and pet owners to potentially fatal levels of aflatoxins in certain Sportmix pet food products, which have been recalled. As of January 11, 2021, more than 70 dogs have died and more than 80 have become sick after consuming the products, according to the FDA. Not all cases have been officially confirmed as aflatoxin poisoning through laboratory testing or record review.

Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., first recalled certain lots of its Sportmix pet food products in late December after reports of death and illness. When tested, product samples were found to contain very high levels of aflatoxins. Since then, more pets have died or become sick, and the recall was expanded on Monday, January 11

The expanded recall affects all Sportmix pet foods containing corn that were manufactured in the company’s Oklahoma plant and have an expiration date on or before July 9, 2022. 

Pet owners should stop feeding their pets the recalled products and make sure no other animals have access to these products. Owners also should consult their veterinarian, especially if the pet is showing signs of illness.

Aflatoxin poisoning

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus and, at high levels, can cause illness and death in pets. The toxins can be present even if there is no visible mold.  

If a pet’s food contains aflatoxins, the toxins could accumulate in the pet’s system as they continue to eat the same food. In severe cases, this toxicity can be fatal. In some cases, pets may suffer liver damage but not show any clinical signs. Signs of aflatoxin poisoning include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice 
  • Diarrhea
  • Death

The FDA urges veterinarians treating aflatoxin poisoning to ask their clients for a diet history and to report the cases through the safety reporting portal or by calling their local FDA consumer complaint coordinators. Pet owners can also report suspected cases to the FDA.

List of recalled products

The following pet food products with an expiration date on or before “07/09/22” and “05” in the date/lot code have been recalled. Lot code information can be found on the back of the bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH:MM”.

  • Pro Pac Adult Mini Chunk, 40 lb. bag 
  • Pro Pac Performance Puppy, 40 lb. bag 
  • Splash Fat Cat 32%, 50 lb. bag 
  • Nunn Better Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Maintenance, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Protein, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Stamina, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 40 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Bite Size, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 44 lb. bag
  • Sportmix High Energy, 50 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 16.5 lb. bag
  • Sportmix Premium Puppy, 33 lb. bag

This is an ongoing investigation. Case counts and the scope of the recall may expand as new information becomes available. Monitor the AVMA’s recalls and safety alerts webpage for updates, along with the AVMA’s Facebook page and @AVMARecallWatch on Twitter.
 

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