The Food and Drug Administration is warning pet owners that Midwestern Pet Foods' products have been “associated with the illness or death of hundreds of pets who had eaten the company's dry dog food.”
The FDA said Tuesday that it has issued a warning letter to the Evansville, Indiana, family-owned company because inspections of manufacturing plants revealed evidence of violations.
As of Aug. 9, the federal agency said it was aware of "more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 illnesses that may be linked to eating brands of pet food manufactured by Midwestern," which may contain unsafe levels of aflatoxin, a byproduct of mold.
"The FDA is dedicated to taking all steps possible to help pet owners have confidence that the food they buy for their animal companions is safe and wholesome," Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement. "Samples of dog food were found to contain high levels of aflatoxin."
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Aflatoxin is a toxin that can grow on corn and other grains used in pet food, according to the FDA. At high levels, aflatoxin can cause illness and death in pets.
Pets experiencing aflatoxin poisoning may have the following symptoms: sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (a yellowish tint to the skin, eyes, or gums due to liver damage) and diarrhea.
"Not all of these cases have been confirmed as aflatoxin poisoning through laboratory testing or veterinary record review," the FDA's statement said Tuesday. "This count is approximate and may not reflect the total number of pets affected."
Midwestern Pet Foods didn't immediately respond to USA TODAY's request for comment Tuesday.
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In December, the pet food manufacturer recalled several types of its dog food, and the recall was expanded in January. Sportsmix products were among the recalled items.
The FDA said in December that it was aware of 28 deaths and eight illnesses in dogs that ate the recalled product. That number increased to more than 70 dog deaths in January.
The FDA said it has requested a "written response from the company within 15 working days stating the specific steps they have taken to correct any violations. Failure to adequately address any violations promptly may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction."
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"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," Solomon said in his statement. "We'll continue to hold companies accountable and protect animal health as a core element of the FDA's public health mission."
Today, FDA posted a corporate-wide warning letter to Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc. after inspections of its manufacturing sites revealed violations that likely contributed to the illness or death of hundreds of dogs. https://t.co/JC9PKiHY4c pic.twitter.com/5UQxEl4lv9
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 17, 2021
In March, Midwestern Pet Foods had a recall because of possible salmonella contamination.
"The FDA found that Midwestern’s food safety program appears inadequate to significantly minimize or prevent Salmonella in its pet food," the FDA said Tuesday of the March recall. "None of the recalled products should be available to consumers to purchase."
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dog deaths, illnesses linked to Midwestern Pet Foods, FDA says