The Food and Drug Administration has warned a pet food manufacturer that its dry dog food may be linked to the deaths of 130 dogs and that its products may have sickened an additional 220 pets.
The F.D.A. said it began investigating the company, Midwestern Pet Foods Inc. of Evansville, Ind., after it voluntarily recalled 20 products in December that were linked to the deaths of 28 dogs. The company expanded the recall in January after tests of certain products showed that aflatoxin, a toxin that is produced by mold, exceeded acceptable levels, the agency said.
Steven Solomon, the director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement that inspections of the company’s manufacturing plants had “revealed evidence of violations” that were “associated with the illness or death of hundreds of pets who had eaten the company’s dry dog food.”
The F.D.A. said that it was aware of more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 pet illnesses as of Aug. 9 that may be linked to the consumption of Midwestern Pet Foods products. Not all of those cases have been confirmed as aflatoxin poisoning, the agency said, adding that the count “may not reflect the total number of pets affected.”
Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may have symptoms including sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or jaundice — a yellow tint in the eyes, gums or skin because of liver damage, the F.D.A. has said.
Midwestern Pet Foods did not immediately respond to request for comment. In a statement that it issued after expanding its voluntary recall in January, the company said that “as a fourth-generation family-owned company,” it had “been committed to ensuring that our products are safe and nutritious for nearly 100 years.”
The company has a recall list on its website. The recalled products include Sportmix, Pro Pac Originals, Splash, Sportstrail and Nunn Better dry dog and cat foods, which Midwestern Pet Foods produces in its Oklahoma plant and distributes nationally in retail stores and online. In March, the company recalled several brands of pet food manufactured at its plant in Illinois after samples tested positive for salmonella, the F.D.A. said.
The F.D.A.’s initial inspection of Midwestern’s plant in Oklahoma was prompted by reports of illness or death in dogs that had eaten Sportsmix brand dry dog food.
The agency later inspected three of the company’s plants in New York, Illinois and Indiana. Those inspections “revealed apparent violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act” meant to keep pet food safe, and conditions that “likely contributed to the illness or death of hundreds of dogs,” the F.D.A. said.
The F.D.A. said Midwestern Pet Foods had not taken the necessary steps to address the conditions that led to the recalls. The agency said that it found the company’s food safety programs to be “inadequate,” and that the voluntary recalls, while necessary, did not “prevent the reoccurrence of a hazard in your pet food.”
The inspections found that the food safety procedures that the company presented to the F.D.A. did not “significantly minimize or prevent” high levels aflatoxin and salmonella in its food.
The F.D.A.’s letter, dated Aug. 9, gave Midwestern 15 days to produce a written response detailing the steps it was taking to correct the violations. Failure to “adequately address” the problems that gave rise to the recalls “may result in legal action, including product seizure and/or injunction,” the agency said.
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