The FSA published an updated statement on 16 July.
The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) is extremely saddened by recent cases of pancytopenia in cats. We continue to work closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Royal Veterinary College (RVC) who are leading urgent investigations to find the cause.
The FSA published an updated statement on 16 July. This update highlights that following ongoing testing of the pet food samples, a group of mycotoxins (a group of naturally occurring chemicals produced by certain moulds), have been pinpointed as an area for further scrutiny. At present, no definitive link has been identified and investigations on wider sources continue at pace.
We appreciate this recent information may cause concern to pet owners and we have put together some additional information on our Q&A document to help allay concerns.
Q: When will the full results be back from the investigations?
A: We don’t have a timeline for the findings at this stage as the testing is ongoing. It is a rigorous process and whilst tests are being conducted with urgency, it does take time. It is a question of ruling out every single potential cause. From the pet food perspective, every aspect of the product and the production process will be analysed by a team of experts. Testing is being conducted by a science institute which is considered an international centre of excellence. This is coordinated by the manufacturer working with the Food Standards Agency and the Royal Veterinary College. As soon as there is an update, they will share this with us.
Q: What is a mycotoxin
A: Mycotoxins are a group of naturally occurring chemicals produced by certain moulds. They can grow on a variety of different crops and foodstuffs including cereals, nuts, spices, dried fruits, apple juice and coffee, often under warm and humid conditions.
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring, so their presence in foods cannot be completely avoided. It is however appropriate to ensure that controls are in place to ensure that exposure from food is as low as reasonably achievable. These controls range from ensuring that good practice is undertaken during growing, harvesting and storage of foods in addition to establishing maximum levels where necessary.
Q: What are the regulations regarding mycotoxins?
A: Pet food manufacturers have stringent quality and safety practices in place for choosing ingredients, which includes strict testing procedures for mycotoxins in both the pet food ingredients and in the finished pet food. Additionally, manufacturers are encouraged to have a robust mycotoxin management plan in place, that can assess and manage risk at each step in the supply chain.
Q: How do manufacturers ensure safety from potential contaminants in pet food?
A: There is specific legislation to ensure safety from potential contaminants in pet food. Ingredients used in pet foods are regularly checked for undesirable substances that may occasionally contaminate the supply chain. There are legally set limits for these to ensure that foods are safe to feed.
Q: Can pet food (or ingredients in pet food) cause health problems?
A: There is stringent legislation in place to ensure that pet food and ingredients are safe to feed and of high quality. Furthermore, pet food is subject to ongoing study by pet nutrition experts and vets to provide optimum, safe nutrition. It is widely recognised by vets that pets are living longer, healthier lives and that improved nutrition has played an important role in this. More information on pet food ingredients is available here. Information on legislation here.
Q: How do I find out more about the ingredients in my pet’s food?
A: PFMA and its members are committed to providing you with a clear understanding of what is in your pet’s food. To support you, pet food manufacturers often provide full product information on company websites and via telephone helplines. All companies provide contact details to allow you to obtain further information and are legally required to disclose the specific ingredients within a labelled category on a product upon request.
Q: How can I find out more about the checks and processes in place to ensure pet food is safe for my pet?
A: A responsible pet food manufacturer takes safety and quality very seriously and as required by legislation will have defined processes and standards in place. You can find out more on our factsheet on ‘Good Manufacturing Practice’.
Q: Can I have confidence in pet food now?
A: Yes. The cases of feline pancytopenia are extremely distressing but we would like to reassure you that incidences related to pet food safety are extremely uncommon in the UK. At this point, the exact cause of the cases of feline pancytopenia has not been identified. If you have any concerns, please speak to the pet food manufacturer who will be happy to answer your questions.
Q: Should I take my cat for blood tests if they have been fed any of the recalled foods?
A: If you have been feeding any of the recalled pet food as identified on the FSA list, please stop feeding these foods immediately and contact your vet as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on what next steps are needed.
Q: Is the issue affecting only cat dry pet foods – is dog food, wet pet food, or other formats safe to continue feeding?
A: The only foods of concern are the 3 brands on the FSA recall list which are undergoing further scrutiny. There are no safety issues raised with any other pet food brands or with any dog products.
Q: How can I know my cat food won’t be affected?
A: To find the cause investigators have focused on the reported cases looking for commonalities between them. This has led to a potential link to 3 brands produced by 1 co-manufacturer. There have been no other safety concerns raised with any other pet foods.
Q: Can I continue to safely feed other hypoallergenic brands to my cat?
A: Yes. Investigations have pinpointed 3 specific dry cat food brands for further scrutiny and these products have now been recalled. There is a range of hypoallergenic brands available on the market and your vet or pet retailer will be able to help you find a suitable alternative product. In considering a new product, the cat food manufacturer will be very happy to answer any questions you may have.
Q: Have dogs been affected by this too?
A: No. The RVC and FSA are specifically investigating cases of cat pancytopenia and 3 specific brands of cat food have been recalled. There have been no cases reported in dogs.
Q: Should I start feeding homemade cat food instead due to concerns about other pet foods?
A: For some owners providing home prepared meals for their pet is an appealing idea. Shopping, hand-selecting the ingredients and preparing the meal seems a good way to feed. Whilst this sounds straight forward, in practice it requires careful consideration. It is important to ensure balanced nutrition, and this may necessitate the support of a qualified veterinary nutritionist. Following an expert-formulated food plan can help to prevent nutrient deficiencies, which would put your pet’s health at risk. We encourage you to always speak to your vet before making any significant dietary changes. More information is available on homemade diets here.
Q: How do I safely switch my pet to a new diet?
A: A sudden change in diet can cause a stomach upset in pets. In relation to pancytopenia, it is wise to seek your vet’s advice in switching food. Changes in diet are normally recommended to be done gradually over a period of 5-7 days. However, the recommended immediate stopping of any of the recalled pet foods make a gradual transition unfeasible. In this instance, feeding a very highly digestible, gut-supportive diet will help to minimise tummy upsets. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable diet to quickly transition to whilst you decide on your longer-term feeding choice.
More information on feline pancytopenia is available from the RVC.
If you have any concerns, please contact your vet.
PFMA also has a series of factsheets about pet food and popular feeding topics. Visit: PFMA Fact Sheets | PFMA