This Recalled Pet Food May Contain Potentially Fatal Levels of a Toxin


Illustration for article titled This Pet Food Is Being Recalled After the Deaths of at Least 28 Dogs
Photo: lena Lebedzeva (Shutterstock)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a recall for some Sportmix pet food products, following the deaths of at least 28 dogs after eating the food. So far, there are concerns over the safety of nine total lots of cat and dog foods manufactured by Midwest Pet Food, Inc. for potentially fatal levels of a toxin.

The affected products were distributed to online retailers and stores nationwide. Though it’s not yet clear which specific locations are selling the recalled food, the Sportmix brand is sold at large chains including Pet Supplies Plus and the Tractor Supply Company. Here’s what to know about the recall, and how to keep your pet safe.

Why is the food being recalled?

Midwestern Pet Food, Inc. announced the recall on December 30, 2020, after the FDA was informed of the deaths of at least 28 dogs, as well as eight that have fallen ill after eating the recalled Sportmix pet food. At this point, there have been no reports of feline illnesses or fatalities.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture tested numerous samples of the food, and found them to contain very high levels of aflatoxin—a toxin produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus. When present at high levels (which is possible even if there is no visible mold) it can cause illness and death in pets.

The FDA is still investigating the situation, including conducting follow-up activities at the manufacturing facility. Yesterday, the agency issued a public advisory regarding all the products involved to make sure people don’t feed the potentially toxic food—which may have been purchased a few weeks ago and is still sitting on their shelves—to their pets.

What does aflatoxin poisoning do to pets?

According to the FDA, pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms including:

  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage)
  • Diarrhea

Because cats and dogs don’t tend to have much variety in their diets, when they eat food containing aflatoxin, it can build up over time, in some cases causing long-term liver issues and/or death. It’s also important to note that some animals suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms, so even if your pets seems to be OK, if it has been eating any of the recalled products, contact their veterinarians.

Currently, there is no evidence that humans who handle products containing the toxic mold are at risk of poisoning, but the FDA recommends washing your hands after touching it.

Which pets foods are involved in the recall?

The FDA says that it will be continuing to update their advisory if/when other products are found to contain the toxic mold, but for now, here are Midwestern Pet Food, Inc. products that are part of the recall:

  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 50 lb. bagExp 03/02/22/05/L2Exp 03/02/22/05/L3Exp 03/03/22/05/L2
  • Sportmix Energy Plus, 44 lb. bagExp 03/02/22/05/L3Sportmix Premium High Energy, 50 lb. bagExp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Premium High Energy, 44 lb. bagExp 03/03/22/05/L3Sportmix Original Cat, 31 lb. bag Exp 03/03/22/05/L3
  • Sportmix Original Cat, 15 lb. bagExp 03/03/22/05/L2Exp 03/03/22/05/L3

Lot code information may be found on the back of bag and will appear in a three-line code, with the top line in format “EXP 03/03/22/05/L#/B###/HH:MM.”

Use this tool on the company’s website to find out where Sportmix products are sold in your area. Although it doesn’t specify which individual stores have the recalled foods currently in stock, you’ll at least be able to see where the brand is available—which appears to be a mix of smaller pet stores and larger chains like Pet Supplies Plus and the Tractor Supply Company.

What to do if you’ve purchased recalled pet food

If your pet looks or acts sick after eating these products, call your veterinarian right away. Bring your pet’s full diet history to your vet, along with photos of the labels (including lot numbers) of the food that you suspect made them ill.

Of course, don’t feed the recalled foods to your pets. If you’re not sure how to dispose of the food, contact the company listed on the package for further instructions, or throw it away in a way that ensures children, pets, and wildlife cannot access them. Finally, sanitize your pet’s food bowls, scoops and storage containers using bleach, rinsing well afterwards with water, and drying thoroughly, the FDA recommends.

How to report a suspected case of aflatoxin poisoning to the FDA

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned by the recalled food, it’s a good idea to report that to the FDA. You can do that electronically through the FDA’s Safety Reporting Portal or by calling your state’s FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators.

If possible, the FDA says that it’s most helpful if you can work with your veterinarian to submit your pet’s medical records as part of your report. More information on lodging complaint to the FDA can be found on their website, specifically: How to Report a Pet Food Complaint.