The UK food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), has not found a causative link between recalled cat food and an outbreak of potentially deadly feline pancytopenia, it has said.
The FSA has been investigating the disease since June following more than 130 cases since April.
Investigations led to the recall of three brands of hypoallergenic dry cat food produced by Fold Hill Foods, sold under the Sainsbury’s Hypoallergenic Recipe range, the Pets at Home Ava range and Applaws products, sold by Amazon and other pet food shops.
Pancytopenia is a rare condition where the number of blood cells (red, white and platelets) rapidly decrease, causing serious illness.
In an update late this afternoon, the FSA said: “The Food Standards Agency has been working closely with Fold Hill Foods over the course of the investigation into the recalled cat food. The company has co-operated fully.
“The results of extensive testing identified higher levels of mycotoxins in some samples of the recalled cat food. This includes specific compounds known as T2 and HT2. These products are no longer on sale.
“Mycotoxins are found in some types of feed and food and do not, in themselves, indicate they are the cause of feline pancytopenia. No causative link between pancytopenia and the recalled cat food products has been established.
“As a result of these findings, Fold Hill Foods is working with its local authority to take steps to resume production.”
The FSA said a multi-agency approach would continue to try and identify the causes of the pancytopenia.
The FSA added: “We understand how upsetting the past two months have been for cat owners and know how important it is that the cause of the recent feline pancytopenia cases is established.
“Our tests and analysis to date have not found a causative link to the pancytopenia cases, but our investigation is ongoing and we will provide an update once we have more information.”
Referring to social media posts suggesting that food containing mycotoxins was unsafe for cats, the FSA said: “The mere presence of mycotoxins in cat food does not necessarily pose a risk to cats. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring substances produced by certain types of moulds (fungi) which can grow on a variety of different crops and feedstuffs.”
In a statement, Pets at Home said it was “deeply disappointed” that the FSA had been unable to find a definitive cause for the outbreak.
The retailer said: “Pets at Home has supported this investigation throughout, immediately implementing the manufacturer’s voluntary food safety recall and doing everything we could to alert all our affected customers.
“We recognise the pain and upset that this illness has caused, and our hearts go out to all the families whose cats have suffered.
“We are therefore deeply disappointed that the FSA were unable to find a definitive cause for the distressing spike in cases of feline pancytopenia.
“For us, pets come first and always will, which is why despite the lack of clear answers following the FSA’s investigations to date, the product recall will remain in place and we will continue to support our customers whose pets have been affected.
“We also believe that further research is required into feline pancytopenia and its causes, and so Pets at Home are committing £100,000 to fund further studies that we hope will help improve knowledge within this area.”
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Safety is our highest priority and we have worked closely with the FSA on the investigation.”