The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to a pet food manufacturer Tuesday, saying the brand's foods are thought to be linked to more than 130 pet deaths and 220 pet illnesses.
"Inspections of Midwestern Pet Foods, Inc.'s manufacturing plants revealed evidence of violations, which were shared across multiple plants and were associated with the illness or death of hundreds of pets who had eaten the company's dry dog food," Steven M. Solomon, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement.
Four Midwestern plants were inspected recently in response to recalls the company made this year, the FDA said. The inspections "revealed evidence of significant violations" of regulations meant to keep pet food safe.
Midwestern first recalled Sportmix dry dog food in January, after the FDA found that it contained levels of aflatoxin as high as 558 parts per billion, when 20 parts per billion is the limit. High levels of aflatoxins can cause illness and death in pets.
In March, Midwestern recalled several more brands, including CanineX, Earthborn Holistic, Venture, Unrefined, Sportmix Wholesomes, Pro Pac, Pro Pac Ultimates, Sportstrail, Sportmix and Meridian, after samples tested positive for salmonella, the FDA said.
The agency discovered that "Midwestern's food safety program appears inadequate to significantly minimize or prevent Salmonella in its pet food."
The FDA said that as of Aug. 9, it was "aware of more than 130 pet deaths and more than 220 pet illnesses that may be linked to eating brands of pet food manufactured by Midwestern."
The numbers could be higher, the agency said, adding that not all of the cases have been confirmed to be aflatoxin poisoning.
Midwestern has 15 days to respond to the warning letter explaining how it will correct violations, or it could face legal action. Midwestern did not respond to multiple requests for comment.