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Pet Food Contaminants and Toxins


Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins produced by fungi (molds). The class called aspergillus is of particular interest. There are several hundred types of aspergillus, 14 of which produce a harmful toxin called Aflatoxins (a Mycotoxin). Aflatoxin can be found on cereals (corn, wheat etc), oilseeds (peanuts, soybean, and sunflower) and tree nuts (pecans, pistachio, and walnuts). These fungi have a world-wide distribution and the incidence of contamination depends on many factors such as temperature, humidity and soil condition during growth and further on conditions during storage.

Cyanuric Acid

Cyanuric Acid (also called 1,3,5-Triazin-2,4,5-Triol) is a chemical component of disinfectants, herbicides, and bleach. While essentially nontoxic, cyanuric acid can form poorly soluble crystals with Melamine, leading to serious consequences for pets. Cyanuric acid was implicated in the pet food recalls in 2007.

DON (Vomitoxin)

Vomitoxin (or DON, deoxynivalenol) is a mycotoxin derived from a fungus (mold) group called Fusarium, naturally present in soil and plants. Fusarium most often is present in grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye. This toxin causes severe gastro-intestinal disease when ingested in sufficient amounts. DON has been inplicated in mycotoxin events in both farm animals and humans. 

Shiga Toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC)

Escherichia coli (often abbreviated as E. coli) are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can cause serious food poisoning issues. We, at Natural Balance, test for Shiga Toxin producing E. coli (STEC), which have been known to cause diarrhea with bloody stools, gastroenteritis, kidney failure and hemolytic anemia. In severe cases, infection with STEC organisms has led to irreversible injury to the gastrointestinal tract and death.  


Fumonisin is a toxin produced by several species of the genus Fusarium Molds, which occur mainly in grains. Most species are harmless and are relatively abundant members of the soil microbial community. Some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops that can affect human and animal health if they enter the food chain. While the acute toxicity of fumonisin is low, it is the known cause of two diseases which occur in domestic animals with rapid onset: equine leukoencephalomalacia and porcine pulmonary oedema syndrome.


Melamine (1,3,5-Triazine-2,4,6-Triamine) is a chemical compound used to economically adulterate material to make it appear to have higher protein content. With cyanuric acid, this compound was implicated in the 2007 pet food recalls. The crystals formed with melamine deposited in an animal's kidneys resulting in acute renal failure. 


Ochratoxins (A, B, C) are mycotoxins produced by some Aspergillus species and Penicillium species, like A. ochraceus or P. viridicatum, with ochratoxin A as the most prevalent and relevant fungal toxin of this group. Ochratoxin A is known to occur in commodities like cereal/grain, coffee, dried fruit and red wine. Ochratoxins may be toxic to humans as it collects in animal meat.

Salmonella spp.

Salmonella spp. is a group of bacteria that have been known to be transmitted to humans or animals through contaminated foods. These organisms can cause illness such as diarrhea, sometimes with bloody stool, nausea, abdominal cramping and in more severe illnesses, urinary tract symptoms. While most people and animals recover with mild to moderate cases of Salmonellosis, hospitalization is often required with severe infections.


Zearalenone (ZEA) is a mycotoxin produced by some species of Fusarum and Gibberella Fungi (mold). Fusarium is a large genus of fungi widely distributed in soil and most species are harmless. However, some species produce mycotoxins in cereal crops, such as corn, barley, oats, wheat, rice, and sorghum, that can affect mammalian health. 

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