[History: This article first appeared on the Pet Pardons News website February 28, 2012. It is the second installment in an ongoing report – click here for the first story]
It’s been almost a month since U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown first contacted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about complaints involving pets dying from eating chicken jerky treats imported from China. As of February 27, the FDA has still not responded to the Senator’s requests even though they have received hundreds of complaints about the jerky products.
The FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (Vet-LRN) has tested 80 samples (results completed) since January 1, 2012 and has 153 tests pending. Samples have been tested by both government and animal health diagnostic laboratories in the U.S. The investigation has yielded no definitive results, which understandably frustrates pet owners looking for answers.
A spokesperson for the FDA said that jerky samples have been tested for a wide variety of substances. Diethylene glycol (DEG) was detected in one sample but the levels were calculated to be below toxic levels by FDA scientists. Further DEG testing on subsequent samples has been negative, yet they continue to test and screen the treats for that compound.
The FDA investigation is ongoing, but they are not saying what compounds they are testing for or what those results are. Several pet owners have turned their leftover treats and packages over for testing and were told that they would not be notified of the results.
Robin Pierre of Pine Bush New York, and Norma Fleming-Super of Nashville Tennessee, both turned over samples to the FDA and were told that if they wanted to know the outcome, they’d have to submit a Freedom of Information Act request. The instructions on the FDA website indicate they will have to pay for that information. Even then, they are not guaranteed to receive a report if the FDA deems it is “not in the public’s best interest” to release the information.
Some frustrated pet owners are paying independent labs to do their own testing, not trusting that the FDA will be forthcoming with what they find. In one lab, treats are being tested for arsenic.
Before the FDA had them stop last summer, Pfizer had manufactured a feed additive for chickens called Roxarsone that was found to contain arsenic. In China, where regulations are lax, chickens have been found to be loaded with the poison. The FDA usually only tests water for arsenic, not meat or food products. They have not revealed whether they intend to check the jerky for the poison.
The Facebook group “Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China” continues to grow at an accelerated rate as more people with pets sickened by chicken jerky strips join. The stories come from all across the country and share a host of similarities:
- pets that have eaten various brands of chicken and other jerky imported from China suddenly becoming ill or die
- pets exhibit “addictive” behavior to the treats
- pets are diagnosed with kidney and liver failure, and in some cases acquired Fanconi Syndrome pet food manufacturers of the treats have been contacted but take no responsibility
- stores are still stocking the potentially poisonous products
The group is trying to get importers of the Chinese treats to voluntarily recall their products while the treats are under investigation.
An FDA spokesperson said:
“Unless we detect a contaminant and have evidence a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take. The regulations don’t allow for products to be removed based on complaints.”
Yet, another FDA Complaint Coordinator confided to a consumer that she has a bag of the suspicious treats at home, and was refraining from feeding them to her own dog.
Although pet owners have cited different brands of the treats as causing illness, the bulk of cases reported on the Animal Parents Facebook page point the finger at Waggin Train jerky.
Nestle Purina has repeatedly released this statement regarding complaints about their jerky:
“any association between dog illnesses and chicken jerky is likely the result of dogs (primarily small dogs) consuming treats in excess of normal or recommended levels.”
Treat packages recommend no more than 2 treats daily.
Pet parents whose dogs got ill after eating just one treat or even a part of the treat are taking issue with Purina’s statement as well as with the FDA’s official stance. When is it all right for a treat to cause kidney or liver failure in any quantity? How many pets have to fall ill or die before the FDA will accept that there is “evidence of adulteration”?
Barbara Miller of Malibu, California said she only fed her dog Oliver ½ of a strip before he became ill, and many other pet owners have reported only having fed a single treat before their pet began to show signs of distress.
Whatever the toxicant is, it has been killing smaller dogs in less than five days from the day it is ingested. Larger dogs who receive veterinary care quickly have a better chance at recovery.
Consumers continue to contact the pet food companies that are importing the treats from China, but have been experiencing censorship on the companies’ Facebook pages. Some have had their Facebook accounts suspended for posting photos of brands in the Animal Parents group.
One thing is certain however, pet owners, carrying a torch for pets that have been stricken ill or have died, do not appear to be showing signs that they are backing down any time soon.
[read the next installment here]