SportMix pet foods contained massive amounts of aflatoxin

Multiple samples of SportMix pet foods, manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc., contained in excess of 400 parts per billion (ppb) of aflatoxin, according to information contained in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Inspectional Observations report (Form 483) dated 5 February 2021.

The FDA’s action level for aflatoxin in pet food is 20 ppb.

The contaminated pet foods, which were manufactured in Midwestern’s Chickasha (Oklahoma) production 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 had been sold nationwide across the USA and exported to 35 countries around the world.

The backstory

In December 2020, the FDA was informed of at least 28 dogs that had died and an additional eight that became ill after they were fed a SportMix pet food product.

As of January 21, 2021, the number of affected animals had reached 110 dead companion animals and an additional more than 210 sick pets. All of the deaths and illnesses were associated with a Midwestern Pet Foods dry pet food.

According to a spokesperson for the FDA, most of case reports involve dogs. The agency has received a few reports of cats who have been sickened by the contaminated pet food.

On December 31, 2021, the FDA initiated an investigation of Midwestern’s Chickasha facility. 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 pet food 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. Total aflatoxin concentrations in these retail samples ranged from 483 ppb to 558 ppb.
  • The Office of the Texas State Chemist tested seven samples of Sportmix Premium Energy Plus dog food (Lot Code 03032205L3B164), which contained 395 ppb of total aflatoxin, and SportMix Original Recipe cat food (Lot Code 04292205L3B163), which contained 125 ppb. All seven samples contained levels of aflatoxin above the acceptable level.
  • The FDA tested retail samples of SportMix Premium High Energy dog food and SportMix Original Recipe cat food (Lot Code 04292205). The agency lab found 27.2 ppb of aflatoxin in a 31-lb bag of cat food and 21.5 ppb in a 15-lb bag of cat food.
  • While the FDA investigation was in progress, Midwestern arranged for a third-party lab to test retained samples of several pet food products that already had 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 of three Midwestern pet food products. Two of the products were negative (less than 1 ppb) for aflatoxin. A sample of Sports Trail (Expiry date 03/08/22/05) contained 83.3 ppb aflatoxin. This information was supplied 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 a spokesperson for the agency. 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 this happen?

Although the company performed on-site sample collection and analysis for aflatoxin on incoming shipments of corn, its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), dated 8/17/18, for preparing samples for analysis was not correct, producing inaccurate test results.

The SOP was amended, effective 8/25/20, when a new test system was implemented.

In other words, for two years, the Chickasha production plant was underestimating the possible presence of aflatoxin in its incoming corn—the primary ingredient in many of its pet food products.

In addition to the aflatoxin issue, the FDA inspectors also noted that the company did not have an effective control in place to minimize or prevent the risk of Salmonella in its pet foods, nor did it control for two other mycotoxins, namely, fumonisin and vomitoxin.

Finally, after changing its aflatoxin testing system in August 2020, the company did not reanalyze its Food Safety Plan to reflect the change to its testing system or to include the required sample collection, preparation and testing protocol to be used.

Why is aflatoxin contamination a concern?

Aflatoxin is produced when the mold, Aspergillus flavus, grows on corn.

Dogs and cats are extremely sensitive to this toxin. When aflatoxin is consumed at low levels over a period of time, it can cause anorexia, depression, prostration, liver damage, hemorrhages, and other symptoms. At higher concentrations, it is lethal.

For dogs, a lethal dose of aflatoxin is 0.5-1.0 mg per kg of body weight, and 60µg per kg can be a toxic (even though nonlethal) dose.

Acute—deadly—poisoning has been documented in the past in dogs that had consumed commercial dry pet food contaminated with as little as 80-300 ppb aflatoxin.

The effects of aflatoxin poisoning on the system are cumulative, according to the FDA.

The victims

At least three lawsuits have been filed since pet owners became aware of the Midwestern aflatoxin contamination. Here are just a few of the stories, extracted from the formal Class Action Complaints:

  • Plaintiff Williams (Georgia) fed SportMix premium High Energy to his three American Pitbull Terriers, Jamaica, Red and Dozer. He had purchased the food in December 2020. All three dogs experienced sluggishness and gastrointestinal issues 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 puppies also died. Dozer was the only survivor.
  • Plaintiff Woodall (North Carolina) purchased Sportmix Energy Plus in November or December 2020 and fed it to his previously healthy dog. Billy experienced loss of appetite, weight loss, gastrointestinal issues and growths on his intestines and anus. He was ultimately euthanized in early January 2021.
  • Plaintiff Griffin (Texas) purchased Sportmix Energy Plus in December 2020 and fed it to her rottweiler, Bishop. The dog experienced skin issues, gastrointestinal problems and testicular swelling. He was treated by a veterinarian (including neutering to address the swelling) and survived, but still experiences symptoms.
  • Plaintiff Romero fed SportMix pet food to her two dogs on Christmas Day, 2020, after which both dogs became seriously ill and were euthanized.
  • Plaintiff Starnes fed SportMix to his dogs, three of which died after becoming suddenly ill and appearing jaundiced.
  • Plaintiff Lill’s two dogs became ill after consuming SportMix. One dog began vomiting after being fed, and Lill switched to another food for that dog, who recovered. The other dog continued to eat SportMix, became jaundiced, had diarrhea, and died on December 20, 2020 on the way to the veterinarians office.

What pet owners should know, according to the FDA

There is no evidence to suggest that pet owners who handle products containing aflatoxins are at risk of aflatoxin poisoning. However, pet owners should always wash their hands after handling pet food and treats.

If your pet is showing signs of aflatoxin poisoning such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), unexplained bruising or bleeding, and/or diarrhea, contact a veterinarian immediately. If your pet passes away prior to seeing a veterinarian and you suspect possible aflatoxin exposure, contact your veterinarian to discuss whether an autopsy (necropsy) may be appropriate to determine the cause of death. 

Provide a full diet history to your veterinarian, including what food or pet treats, you (or other household members) give the pet, and what other food or items the pet might have been exposed to. You may find it helpful to take a picture of the pet food label, including the lot number and best-by date. If your veterinarian suspects the food is the source of aflatoxins, having the lot code and best-by date helps FDA identify exactly when the contamination occurred and what other products might also be affected. This can help prevent other pets from getting sick. Don’t feed the products to your pets or any other animals. 

Pet owners can report suspected illness to FDA electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators. It’s most helpful if you 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 to include in a complaint to FDA, please see How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.

It’s also helpful if you save the food in its original package, in case it’s needed for testing. If testing is not needed, contact the company listed on the package for further instructions or throw the products away in a way that children, pets and wildlife cannot access them. 

If your pet is otherwise healthy, but you are still concerned about potential aflatoxin contamination in your pet’s food, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian before making changes to your pet’s diet, especially if your pet has other health conditions that require a specialized or restricted or diet.

Recalls and Alerts: February 13 – 15, 2020

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

United States

Allergy Alert: Save A Lot recalls Coburn Farms Sharp Yellow Cheddar Cheese, Cherry Juice- Infused Dried Cranberries & Roasted Sea Salted Cashews Snackers (4.5 oz; Use by April 24, 2020) due to undeclared peanuts.

Allergy Alert: Gourmet International and Butlers Chocolates UC recalls IRISH WHISKEY DARK CHOCOLATE TABLET BAR (3.5 oz; Lot #101048778; Expiry date 08/16/2020) due to undeclared milk.

Pet Food Safety Alert: FDA cautions pet owners not to feed Aunt Jeni’s Home Made All-Natural Raw Turkey Dinner Dog Food (5 lb / 2.3 kg; Lot 175331; Best before NOV2020) due to Salmonella contamination.

Canada

Allergy Alert: Marché Laurier recalls WRAP PESTO AUX TOMATES SÉCHÉES  / Pesto & dried tomatoes wrap (All product sold up to February 13, 2020) due to undeclared eggs.

Allergy Alert: PK Trading Inc. recalls Goraesa brand Fish Cakes due to undeclared egg. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall: Marché Adonis Laval recalls several varieties of ground meat due to shigatoxin-producting E. coli contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall: Boulangerie Nussi’s recalls various bread and pastry products that were manufactured and packaged under unsanitary conditions.

Food Safety Recall: Silani Sweet Cheese Ltd. recalls Silani brand Mozzarella Ball (260g; Best Before 2021.01.08; UPC 0 65052 51369 4) due to E. coli contamination.

Europe

OUTBREAK ALERT (MULTIPLE COUNTRIES): European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reports an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections linked to shell eggs. The outbreak has been underway since 2017. As of the most recent update, ECDC has identified 656 confirmed cases and 202 probable cases in 15 countries since February 2017.

Allergy Alert (Belgium): Industry recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Belgium): Delhaize recalls Delhaize brand Bûche Tradition Cendrée (Lot #38; Best before 28/02/2020) due to undeclared egg.

Allergy Alert (Germany): Heuschen & Schrouff Oriental Foods Trading recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Iceland): Tee Yih Jia Food Manufacturing Pte. Ltd. recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Ireland): Pan Euro Foods recalls Diggers Oriental Duck Spring Rolls (40 x 60g; Best before dates from 15.02.2020 to 07.02.2021 inclusive) and Diggers Oriental Vegetable Spring Rolls (40 x 60g; Best before dates from 15.02.2020 to 02.02.2021 inclusive) due to undeclared milk.

Allergy Alert (Ireland): Industry recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Ireland): Iceland recalls several vegan products due to undeclared milk.  Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Italy): Uniontrade S.p.A. recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Luxembourg): Industry recalls TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (Luxembourg): Delhaize recalls Delhaize brand Bûche Tradition Cendrée (Lot #38; Best before 28/02/2020) due to undeclared egg.

Allergy Alert (Netherlands): Amazing Oriental, Vanka-Kawat Import en Export B.V. en Import en Exportonderneming Amboina recall TYJ Spring Home brand spring roll pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (UK): No Meat Limited recalls No Porkies 6 Meat-Free Sausage Rolls (6 x 100g; All date codes) due to undeclared milk.

Allergy Alert (UK): Cakes by Rebecca Limited recalls various products due to undeclared egg, gluten, milk, nuts, peanuts, soya, sulphur dioxide and/or sulphites. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): Firma B+F Bakery & Food recalls Bäckerkrönung Zupfkuchen frozen cake (500g; Lot #L060-1011119; Best before 31.10.2020) due to foreign matter (white plastic pieces) contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): Firma B+F Bakery & Food recalls Rewe Beste Wahl, Zupfkuchen frozen cake (500g; Lot #L060-1011119; Best before 31.10.2020) due to foreign matter (white plastic pieces) contamination.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Waitrose & Partners recalls Waitrose Duchy Organic Almonds (150g; Best before 28 July 2020) due to Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Nestlé UK Limited recalls Nestlé Ski Yogurt Variety Pack With Fruit Pieces (4 x 120g; Use by 21 February 2020, 28 February 2020, 6 March 2020, 13 March 2020) due to foreign matter (small pieces of black rubber) contamination.

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

Allergy Alert (Israel): Aleh Candy Manufacturers, Marketers And Exporters 2016 Ltd. recalls Chocolate flavored Dragée “Hakhi Matok” (80g and 500g pkgs; All expiration dates up until and including 08/2021) due to undeclared dairy ingredient.

Australia and New Zealand

Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Lim Brothers Import & Export Co., Ltd. and Markwell Foods recall Spring Home brand TYJ Spring Roll Pastry products due to undeclared milk. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): Target Australia Pty Ltd recalls The Fabulous Food Company Jersey Caramels (200g; All best before dates from AUG 2018 to and including FEB 2021) due to foreign matter (plastic) contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): ALDI recalls Farmdale Full Cream Milk (3L; Use by 25 FEB 20) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): LD&D Milk Pty recalls Dairy Choice Full Cream milk (2 Litre; Use by 25/02/2020) and Community Co ‘The Good Drop’ Full Cream milk (2 Litre; Use by 25/02/2020) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): LD&D AUSTRALIA PTY LTD recalls Dairy Farmers Full Cream Milk (1 Litre; Use by 25/02/2020) and Dairy Farmers Full Cream Milk (3 Litre; Use by 24/02/2020) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Australia): 7-ELEVEN PTY LTD recalls 7 Eleven Full Cream Milk (2L; Use by 24 FEB 20) due to E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (New Zealand): Han Chang Foods Ltd recalls Hankook brand tofu products and Han Chang brand fresh soybean sprouts due to lack of process control. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

FDA finds Salmonella in Aunt Jeni’s raw pet food sample

FDA is cautioning pet owners not to feed a specific lot of Aunt Jeni’s frozen raw pet food after finding Salmonella in a retail sample.

The contaminated product is described as: Aunt Jeni’s Home Made All-Natural Raw Turkey Dinner Dog Food, 5 lb. (2.3 kg), lot 175331 NOV2020.

FDA obtained a retail sample of this product in January 2020 and has confirmed the presence of Salmonella Infantis in the sample.

Aunt Jeni has not recalled the contamination product.

Salmonella can cause illness and death in humans and animals, especially those who are very young, very old, or have weak immune systems. Common symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Most people recover without treatment, but in some people, the diarrhea may be so severe that they need to be hospitalized.

Infected pets may show symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhea (which may be bloody), fever, loss of appetite and/or decreased activity level. Although pets do not always display symptoms of a Salmonella infection, they can shed the bacteria in their feces and saliva, contaminating the environment and potentially spreading the infection to other animals and to people.

This is the second time in less than a year that FDA has reported finding pathogens in products from this company. In August 2019, FDA reported the presence of Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes in two samples obtained during an inspection of the company’s premises. The contaminated products were not recalled.

What Consumers Need to Know

  • The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that all animal food, like human food, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. Without an effective control for pathogens, such as cooking, animal food is more likely to contain pathogens such as Salmonella. Refrigeration or freezing does not kill the bacteria.
  • If you think you have symptoms of Salmonella infection, consult your health care provider.
  • People who think their pets have become ill after consuming contaminated pet food should first contact their veterinarians. Veterinarians who wish to have pets tested for Salmonella may do so through the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN) if the pet is from a household with a person infected with Salmonella.
  • FDA encourages consumers to report complaints about pet food products electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal. This information helps FDA further protect human and animal health.