OPINION: You may remember that in May of this year, six months ago, that a large number of domestic cats became ill with pancytopenia, a usually rare disease. No one had heard about it. About 63% died. The country had a major problem on its hands regarding cat food which was identified as the possible cause. It was believed that fungal mycotoxins, specifically compounds known as T2 and HT2, may have caused the pancytopenia. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK has worked closely with a pet food producer called Fold Hill Foods and the veterinarians. It was believed that this pet food producer may have been the source of the problem. They provide feed to various well-known pet food manufacturers. No connection has been found.
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As I understand it, the problem is that cat food contains grains (to pad-out the food to increase the financial profit) and grains can contain this fungal toxin which can harm red-cell, T-cell and white cell production in the bone marrow. This can kill the cat. I’m trying to keep it simple because all the information on the Internet is highly complicated and almost impenetrable.
But the problem is this: the Royal Veterinary College and other agencies are trying to figure out what killed these cats and six months later they are still scratching their heads. You would have thought that six months would be long enough to work out what’s going on if they were committed to the process. And I think there is a possibility that there is a cover-up here.
The expert are even unsure how many cats have died because veterinarians have stopped reporting. But we are looking at hundreds of cats. At least 565 cats are known to have had the disease but only a small percentage of the vets in the UK are actively reporting so the number is likely to be much higher. This is a serious issue. This is not good enough.
The cat foods concerned have been pulled from the shelves of retailers such as Pets at Home and Sainsbury’s. You can read the full list by clicking on this link if you wish.
Clearly, these mycotoxins were allowed in the food under European Union regulations which were and perhaps still are applicable depite the UK leaving the EU. Perhaps they are reappraising that situation. I’m baffled really by what is going on. It is not clear what is happening. I have questions as to, for example, why these mycotoxins were allowed in pet food in the first place. And secondly why it is taking so long to trace the source of this surge in cases of pancytopenia in domestic cats in the UK?
The investigation, which is multidisciplinary according to the news reports, appears to be highly dilatory. It is sluggish. It is slow and being somewhat cynical in my old age, it almost looks like there’s a cover-up going on. It looks like they want the matter to fizzle out and for people to forget about it. In the meantime I expect that the authorities will change the regulations to remove the possibility that this fungal toxin finds its way into pet food.
But somebody is to blame for this and the owners of the hundreds of cats who have died of pancytopenia need to be compensated. Many of them have suffered emotionally having lost a close family member. There needs to be some justice and closure in this matter and I sense that not enough is not being done to achieve this objective.
P.S. The mycotoxins T-2 and HT-2 belong to a group of trichothecenes and are formed by fungi of the Fusarium species and are frequently found in oats, maize, barley and wheat.
SOME MORE ON THIS PET FOOD SCANDAL: