Several samples of SportMix pet food manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. contained more than 400 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin, as reported in a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection observation report (Form 483) dated February 5, 2021. The FDA’s level of effectiveness for aflatoxin in pet food is 20 ppb.
The contaminated pet foods produced at the Chickasha, Oklahoma, Midwestern manufacturing facility were part of a major pet food recall announced by the company on December 30, 2020. The scope of the recall was expanded on January 11, 2021.
The recalled products were sold nationwide in the United States and exported to 35 countries worldwide.
In December 2020, the FDA was notified of at least 28 dogs who died and an additional eight dogs that became ill after feeding a SportMix pet food.
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By January 21, 2021, the number of animals affected had reached 110 dead pets and an additional 210 sick pets. All deaths and illnesses were linked to dry pet food from Midwestern Pet Foods.
Most case reports involve dogs, according to an FDA spokesman. The agency has received some reports of cats that have become sick from the contaminated pet food.
On December 31, 2021, the FDA opened an investigation into the Chickasha facility in the Midwest. The inspection was completed on February 5, 2021.
The results of the investigation
The FDA and various state departments of agriculture tested numerous samples of Midwestern’s dry forage products with the following results:
- The Missouri Department of Agriculture tested eight samples from lot code 03032205L38162, including both SportMix Premium High Energy Dog Food and SportMix Original Recipe Cat Food. The total concentration of aflatoxin in these retail samples ranged from 483 ppb to 558 ppb.
- The Texas State Chemist’s office tested seven samples of Sportmix Premium Energy Plus dog food (lot code 03032205L3B164), which contained 395 ppb total aflatoxin, and SportMix Original Recipe cat food (lot code 04292205L3B163), which contained 125 ppb. All seven samples contained aflatoxin levels that were above acceptable levels.
- The FDA tested retail samples of SportMix Premium High Energy Dog Food and SportMix Original Recipe Cat Food (Lot Code 04292205). The agency’s laboratory found 27.2 ppb of aflatoxin in a 31 pound bag of cat food and 21.5 ppb in a 15 pound bag of cat food.
- During the FDA investigation, Midwestern commissioned a third-party lab to test retained samples from several pet food products that had already been distributed. The lab reported four positive test results: SportMix Energy Plus 24/20 (40.2 ppb), SportMix Stamina 24/18 (135.32 ppb), SportMix High Energy 26/18 (324.10 ppb), and SportMix Original Cat 30 / 10 (428.04 ppb). .
- The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) collected retail samples from three Midwestern pet food products. Two of the products were negative (less than 1 ppb) for aflatoxin. A sample from the Sports Trail (expiration date 03/22/05) contained 83.3 ppb aflatoxin. This information was provided to eFoodAlert by the KDA in response to an Open Record request.
- The New Mexico Department of Agriculture collected and analyzed twelve samples, according to an agency spokesman. A single sample of Sportmix Original Cat Food (Lot: EXP 04/29/22/05 / L3 / B167 14:21) was found to contain 46 ppb aflatoxin.
How did it happen?
Although the company carried out on-site sample collection and analysis for aflatoxin from incoming corn shipments, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of 08/17/18 for preparing the samples for analysis was incorrect and resulted in inaccurate test results.
The SOP was changed with effect from 08/25/20 when a new test system was implemented.
In other words, for two years Chickasha’s manufacturing facility underestimated the possible presence of aflatoxin in their incoming corn – the main ingredient in many of its pet food products.
In addition to the aflatoxin problem, FDA inspectors found that the company had no effective controls to minimize or prevent the risk of salmonella in its pet foods, nor had it had two other mycotoxins, fumonisin and vomit.
Finally, after changing its aflatoxin testing system in August 2020, the company did not reanalyze its food safety plan to reflect the change in its testing system or to include the required protocol for sample collection, preparation and testing.
Why is aflatoxin contamination a problem?
Aflatoxin is produced when the Aspergillus flavus mold grows on maize.
Dogs and cats are very sensitive to this toxin. When aflatoxin is consumed in small amounts over a period of time, it can cause anorexia, depression, fatigue, liver damage, bleeding, and other symptoms. At higher concentrations it is fatal.
In dogs, a lethal dose of aflatoxin is 0.5 to 1.0 mg per kg body weight, and 60 µg per kg can be a toxic (although not fatal) dose.
Acute –deadly– Poisoning has been documented in dogs who consumed commercial dry pet food contaminated with only 80-300 ppb of aflatoxin in the past.
The effects of aflatoxin poisoning on the system are cumulative, according to the FDA.
At least three lawsuits have been filed since pet owners learned of aflatoxin contamination in the Midwest. Here are just a few of the stories gleaned from the formal class action complaints:
- Plaintiff Williams (Georgia) supplied his three American Pit Bull Terriers, Jamaica, Red and Dozer with SportMix Premium High Energy. He bought the feed in December 2020. All three dogs experienced sluggishness and gastrointestinal problems after consuming the food. Two of the dogs – Jamaica and Red – died suddenly and unexpectedly. Jamaica had given birth to a litter of eight puppies shortly after Christmas. All eight pups also died. Dozer was the only survivor.
- Plaintiff Woodall (North Carolina) bought Sportmix Energy Plus in November or December 2020 and fed it to his previously healthy dog. Billy had anorexia, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems, and growths on the intestines and anus. He was finally euthanized in early January 2021.
- Plaintiff Griffin (Texas) bought Sportmix Energy Plus in December 2020 and fed it to her Rottweiler Bishop. The dog had skin problems, gastrointestinal problems and testicular swelling. He was treated by a veterinarian (including neutering to treat the swelling) and survived but still had symptoms.
- The plaintiff Romero fed her two dogs SportMix pet food on Christmas Day 2020. After that, both dogs became seriously ill and were put to sleep.
- Plaintiff Starnes fed his dogs SportMix, three of which died after suddenly becoming ill and developing jaundice.
- Plaintiff Lill’s two dogs fell ill after consuming SportMix. A dog vomited after being fed, and Lill switched to a different food for that dog that was recovering. The other dog continued to eat SportMix, developed jaundice, had diarrhea and died on December 20, 2020 on the way to the vet office.
What pet owners should know, according to the FDA
There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners handling aflatoxin-containing products are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food and treats.
If your pet shows signs of aflatoxin poisoning such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes, gums, or skin due to liver damage), unexplained bruising or bleeding, and / or diarrhea, see a veterinarian immediately. If your pet dies before visiting a veterinarian and you suspect possible aflatoxin exposure, contact your veterinarian to discuss whether an autopsy (autopsy) may be appropriate to determine the cause of death.
Provide your veterinarian with a complete nutritional history, including the foods or treats you (or other household members) give the pet and any other foods or items the pet may have been exposed to. It can be helpful to take a photo of the pet food label, including the batch number and best before date. If your veterinarian suspects that the food is the source of aflatoxins, the batch code and best before date can help you determine exactly when the contamination occurred and which other products may also be affected. This can prevent other pets from getting sick. Do not feed the products to your pets or other animals.
Pet owners can report suspected disease to the FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or call the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators in their state. It will be most helpful to work with your veterinarian to submit a pet’s medical records as part of the report. For an explanation of the information and level of detail that would be helpful in filing a complaint with the FDA, see Reporting a Complaint About Pet Food.
It is also helpful to keep the food in its original packaging in case it is needed for testing. If testing is not required, contact the company listed on the package for further instructions, or throw the products away from children, pets, and wildlife.
If your pet is otherwise healthy but you continue to have concerns about possible aflatoxin contamination in your pet’s diet, it is best to check with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet’s diet, especially if your pet has other health issues who require a special or restricted diet or diet.