Mycotoxins in extruded (dry) commercial cat food

There is a fairly recent study called: Occurrence of Mycotoxins in Extruded Commercial Cat Food, which supports the news media story of 28 dogs in the US dying of aflatoxin poisoning (late Dec 2020). Aflatoxins fall under the umbrella term 'mycotoxins'. 

Fungal spores
Fungal spores. This is to illustrate the page only. Image: in the public domain.

Both highlight a hidden danger in dry cat food which is rarely discussed: the presence of this fungal (mould) toxin produced by the Aspergillus flavus mould. There are other species of mould which also metabolise into mycotoxins.

The underlying point is that extruded dry cat food has grain in it. The mould referred to feeds on these grains which is why it ends up in cat and dog food. Why is grain in cat food? Because it is cheaper despite cats being obligate carnivores. 

It seems that poor quality grain is sometimes bought by the smaller pet food manufacturers which perhaps increases the risk. 

Two scientific studies that I have read indicate to me that there can be worrying levels of these toxins in dry cat food. One study analysed foods from Poland, Italy, Brazil, Poland, South Africa and Austria. Not the USA. 

But they concluded the following:

The results from the present study showed that mycotoxin contamination represents a critical point for pet food safety. Certainly, given the high stability of mycotoxins through the cooking process used to produce dry pet food, scrupulous monitoring of incoming ingredients undoubtedly represents the most effective strategy to prevent mycotoxin contamination.


Pets are traditionally fed with the same type of diet for long periods of their life. Therefore, the scientific community should be aware of the potential chronic exposure of dogs and cats to relatively low levels of different mycotoxins and the consequential detrimental risks to their health.

The toxin is very dangerous. It seems that there is an ever-present possibility that they will be present in dry cat and dog food. It is simply a question on the level of contamination. If it is low there is low-level poisoning which would go unnoticed.

When the contamination is high it can kill as evidenced in the Sportmix dog food recall scandal in which 28 dogs have died. This figure may climb. 

The purpose of this post? To educated cat owners about a hidden potential danger.

The toxin damages the liver causing jaundice, lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite. It can kill.

Prevention? Buy the best quality food that you can. Avoid the smaller manufacturers. I buy Hills Oral Care as the kibble pellets are larger which helps with teeth cleaning and it makes him chew the things. Cats sometimes swallow small pellets whole. Not good for digestion.

The study referred to is published on the US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health website.

Dog Food Recall:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cooperating in the recall. Sportmix is based in Evansville, USA, as I understand it.

Recalled lot codes are as follows:

50# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots Exp 03/02/22/05/L2, 03/02/22/05/L3, 03/03/22/05/L2
44# Sportmix Energy Plus Lots 03/02/22/05/L3
50# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
44# Sportmix Premium High Energy Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
31# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L3
15# Sportmix Original Cat Lots 03/03/22/05/L2, 03/03/22/05/L3

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