An eastern Victoria pet food supplier linked to a cluster of dog deaths has issued a voluntary recall of raw chopped meat more than three weeks after animals started falling ill.

On Friday Agriculture Victoria issued a statewide pet-food outbreak alert urging people not to feed their animals raw meat from the Gippsland region while investigations were carried out.

More than 10 dogs have died and another 50 are ill with liver toxicity. One common link with these cases is the animals were fed meat from the Maffra District Knackery, which also trades as Backmans Meats and Backmans Greyhound Supplies.

Today the director of the knackery issued a recall of “any raw chopped pet food” bought between May 31 and July 3 “for a full refund or replacement”.

The raw food being recalled is labelled “Backmans Greyhound Supplies Chopped” and “Maffra Knackery Chopped”.

Agriculture Victoria became aware of the spate of pet deaths on June 29 and meat processing regulator PrimeSafe was alerted on July 2.

This month, PrimeSafe “suggested to the Maffra processing facility that it issue a voluntary recall”.

Knackery owner ‘stressed and saddened’

In a statement, Maffra Knackery co-owner Karen Backman said the business was cooperating fully with the PrimeSafe and Agriculture Victoria investigation to find the cause of the dog deaths.

She said pet food manufacturing and distribution processes at the company’s Valencia Creek factory were given a tick of approval during external audits.

“We are stressed and saddened by the cluster of dogs suffering from liver disease and are doing everything we can to help,” Ms Backman said.

“We recognise the extra stress this may cause our customers during already difficult times.”

“At this stage, the cause of the cluster remains unknown.”

According to the statement, the company only yesterday became aware that Agriculture Victoria’s “investigations into the cause of the dog liver disease cluster may take some time to determine because it is a very complex scientific disease to investigate”.

Victoria’s chief veterinarian Doctor Graeme Cooke yesterday exclusively told the ABC the probe into the dog deaths was “a very complex investigation” and they were conducting “multiple tests going on across different laboratories in Australia.”

Ms Backman said the company had hired a veterinary epidemiologist and environmental scientist to investigate.