Horse meat is now the focus for authorities

Pretty, but potentially deadly. Indigofera produces the toxin which was found in a cluster of dogs that suffered liver failure, and has previously shown to build up in some grazing animals.

HORSE meat from the northern Australia is emerging as the focus of the investigation into the indospicine toxin found in pet meat products, with PrimeSafe saying test results have confirmed the pet meat was processed at the Maffra and District Knackery, Boisdale.
The knackery, however, has said it could not comment on whether it agreed with conclusions that the toxin was in its meat and that toxin was what injured the dogs, and is awaiting more information.
Since the end of May, government agencies have been made aware of 61 affected dogs, of which 21 have died.
The cases are predominantly in Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Mornington Peninsula and eastern suburbs of Melbourne areas to date.
On July 23, indospicine was confirmed as the toxin causing the illness and deaths.
PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria say a consignment of horses came to Victoria from the Northern Territory where the indigofera plant that contains indospicine is known to grow.
The toxin found in native plants of the indigofera species across Australia, but the species that produces high levels of the toxin is found in northern Australia.
Indospicine has been previously shown to build up in the tissue of some grazing animals when they continue to eat these plants.
Indospicine toxicity had not previously been reported in Victoria, but has been reported in northern Australia when dogs eating horse or camel meat were affected.
In Victoria, horses may be transported to a PrimeSafe licensed knackery where they may be processed for use as pet food in accordance with the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production of Pet Meat.
The owners and staff at Maffra Knackery said they had been “devastated” an exotic plant toxin from interstate in its pet meats had been linked to the unprecedented spate of dog illnesses and deaths in Victoria by authorities.
While it welcomes the animal health authority’s findings the native plant toxin indospicine was the cause of the mystery severe liver disease, the knackery said it could not comment on whether it agreed with conclusions that the toxin was in its meat and that toxin was what injured the dogs.
It is seeking the scientific data which links its meat to the toxin, and says its scientific team will review the data when it has been received.
The findings by the authorities provide some welcome answers for all those pet owners and allied professionals as to the mystery illness.
There have been no issues with pet food since July 3, and the knackery says its pet foods are safe.
Since becoming aware of the toxin, it says it has implemented a range of measures to ensure pet food is never contaminated by indospicine, including a strictly ‘Victorian animals only’ requirement for all ingredients, and has changed its manufacturing processes.
Knackery joint-owner Karen Backman said the knackery had helped state and federal authorities find the source of the toxin.
They have provided details of station-bred horses bought from northern Victoria which it understands might have contained the toxin because they had crossed the Victorian border from interstate.
“As dog lovers we were devastated when we became aware of the illnesses in people’s pets,” Ms Backman said.
“We can’t believe we were never made aware of this toxin in interstate cattle and horses.
“Since the toxin was identified, we have introduced a strictly Victorian animals only [requirement] for our entire range of pet foods.
“We won’t let the toxin cross the border into Victoria again,” Ms Backman said.
“We have voluntarily implemented even stricter controls in our pet food production to be doubly sure our pet foods are better than ever.
“Our scientists will review the data and methodology of the authorities to ensure they got their investigation right.
“Our interest is finding the truth of this and keeping our clients pets safe.
“Our hearts go out to all those families and pets that suffered from the effects of the interstate toxin.
“This is the worst thing that could have happened – and we could not have been prepared – it’s just awful.
“It’s never happened before, we are making sure it will never happen again.
“We have learned so much – and our pet foods and processes have been further improved to ensure the toxin can’t get in our pet food.”
Dog owners are being reminded they should not feed their pet any fresh or frozen raw pet meat sourced from Maffra District Knackery between May 31 and July 3.
All kinds of pet meat fitting that description should be considered at risk of indospicine contamination, because of the blending of pet meats, including products described as beef and kangaroo pet meat.
Pet meat contaminated with indospicine may still remain in circulation, despite voluntary withdrawals by the pet meat processing facility and recalls by pet meat retailers.
If unsure of the source of meat, owners should contact their pet meat supplier to check.
Some products will be labelled as Maffra District Knackery and Backman’s Greyhound Supplies.
Some pet meat could have been processed into a variety of products, making identification of all affected pet foods difficult.
PrimeSafe said the focus was now on identifying any further distribution of the indospicine-contaminated pet meat, and on gathering lessons from this rare event.
Dog owners should seek prompt advice from their private veterinarian if their dogs demonstrate any concerning signs including sudden loss of appetite, lethargy or jaundice in a previously heathy animal.
PrimeSafe says there are no indications of any risk to human health nor of human food safety issues associated with these cases to date.
There are strong food safety regulatory controls in place to prevent pet meat entering the human food supply.