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Cats: Diseases

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 35905, tabled on 19 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to (a) tackle the recent rise in cases of feline pancytopenia and (b) discover the source of that outbreak.

Answered on

27 July 2021

Feline pancytopenia is an illness which causes a deficiency in blood cells and often, sadly, is fatal to cats. There has recently been a spike in cases in the UK, 521 as of 26/07/2021.

Defra and its delivery body, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA), the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Safety Scotland (FSS) and other government departments across all four nations are working with local authorities and the pet food supply chain to identify the cause of the rise.

The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) alerted Defra, APHA and FSA of an emerging issue at the end of June 2021. The RVC followed with a call to vets for information to identify further cases and collect information on possible causes.

Investigations have included the possibility of a link with specific cat food products and a precautionary product recall was undertaken by Fold Hill Foods Limited; FSA-PRIN-36-2021 was published on 15/06/2021 and an updated PRIN was issued on 17/06/2021. The cat food products subject to the product recall were not exported outside the UK although as a precaution, officials in Ireland and the EU were informed.

Investigations continue and other causes for the increase still cannot yet be excluded. However, initial findings have identified a number of mycotoxins in the recalled batches of feed and the FSA’s current risk assessment is that mycotoxins found in the recalled cat food pose a feed safety risk. Evidence to confirm whether the mycotoxins found have caused this rise in cases of feline pancytopenia is being considered. Additionally, Defra and APHA are currently undertaking toxicological screening of a number of the affected cats, the results of which will be known in the coming weeks.