[History: This article first appeared on the Pet Pardons News website September 9, 2012. It is the Eighth installment in an ongoing report – click here for the earlier articles:part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7]
Last week, the FDA released an update regarding their continued investigation of chicken jerky treats imported from China. The newest FDA report says that the agency has received 2,200 reports of illnesses linked to the treats. Among these reports 360 dogs and one cat have died in the last 18 months. The agency says that cases have been reported from all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces.
The three brands most often associated with the complaints have been: Waggin Train (Nestle Purina), Canyon Creek Ranch (Nestle Purina), and Milo’s Kitchen (Del Monte).
The majority of complaints have involved chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), but there have also been complaints about duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams. The common link is that they are all treats that were imported from China.
Although the FDA has not been able to find the specific toxin causing the illnesses and deaths, the FDA clarified their stance yesterday.
Laura Alvey, spokesperson for the FDA told Pet Pardons News:
“The FDA has been consistently receiving reports since 2007. We do believe from the reports and data received in our surveillance system that there is a signal as it relates to jerky pet treats that warrants further investigation and as such are working and extending numerous resources throughout the agency to determine a cause.”
Since the FDA began investigating complaints in 2007, they have tested for a wide variety of ingredients and toxins. The problem is that the scientists have to know what they are looking for in order to test for it. A scientist at The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University said early on this year that whatever the toxin is, it’s nothing they’ve ever seen before.
It’s possible that the April FDA inspection of the Chinese plants manufacturing the treats may have provided some inadvertent new clues.
Alvey said: “We did identify concerns about the record keeping practices of several of the inspected firms. And in particular, as indicated, one firm falsified receiving documents for glycerin, which is an ingredient in the jerky pet treats. We are further investigating glycerin as a potential source of the illnesses.”
The fifth report is not yet available for download, but it is expected to be the inspection results from JOC Great Wall Corp. Ltd. of Nanjing, China, which according to ImportGenius produces and supplies the treats for Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch. Alvey wouldn’t verify the name of the fifth plant, and said only that once the fifth EIR was finalized, the results would be posted on the FDA website.
Since research performed in Germany in 2005 described the toxic properties of mixing plasticizers with oil, Alvey was asked if the FDA had tested for Jatropha oil, a vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, which has gained in popularity since 2007; specifically if the agency had looked for it either in the treats themselves or as a lubricant in the machinery making the treats.
“With regard to Jatropha, as you might already be aware, the agency released a Notification to Industry in July 2012.” Alvey told Pet Pardons News.
“We have no evidence that glycerin, oils and proteins derived from Jatropha have been used in FDA-regulated products; however, due to the availability of these materials, as byproducts of biodiesel fuel production, we are alerting the regulated community to exercise caution and examine their supply chains. Currently, a test does not exist to analyze glycerin for potential contamination by the Jatropha plant but we are working on developing one and are asking industry to share any relevant methodological information as we continue to collect more information.”
In addition to their work on developing a test that will detect contamination by Jatropha, the FDA is also expanding its testing to include irradiation byproducts and is consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) experts to discuss this possibility further.
Meanwhile, without a definitive diagnosis, treats remain on store shelves, where they are still available for purchase by uninformed pet owners. A grassroots movement to get the treats removed from store shelves began in Ohio at the beginning of 2012 and has spread nationwide. Senators and Congressmen from Ohio and California have joined the movement, urging the FDA to increase their efforts, and drafting a proposal to change the way the FDA notifies consumers when a product is under investigation.
In addition, consumers have begun asking the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to use their influence to force a recall. While the AVMA has replied that they regret there is nothing they can do but issue warnings, the organization suggests that people in the know continue to spread the word to other pet owners.
Several online petitions have been created to urge the FDA, lawmakers, pet food companies and stores to act responsibly. One online petition urges the FDA and manufacturers of chicken jerky treats imported from China to “immediately halt all sales until the treats can be safely sourced and proven to no longer be dangerous to our companions.”
More than 22,000 signatures have been gathered so far, some from people who say their pets became ill and/or died after eating the jerky treats.
Bernadette Dunham DVM, the Director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has some important tips for consumers who may think their pet has become ill from pet food or a treat.