[History: This article first appeared on the Pet Pardons News website September 9, 2012. It is the seventh installment in an ongoing report – click here for the earlier articles:part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6]
Even though the FDA has been investigating reports since 2007 of illness and death in dogs who have ingested jerky treats imported from China, treats remain on store shelves readily available to consumers. The most recent chapter in the ongoing investigation has prompted Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to spearhead an effort to reform the way consumers are notified when the FDA issues an advisory about a product.
Reports of illness and deaths of pets have risen exponentially during 2012. Although veterinarians have drawn a correlation between the treats and the reported illnesses, FDA scientists have not been able to pinpoint a specific contaminant.
Part of the problem is that whatever ingredient or manufacturing procedure is causing acquired Fanconi Syndrome and organ failure in dogs is nothing the FDA has ever seen before. Scientists have expressed their frustration of the difficulty of finding the culprit when they don’t know what they are looking for. Additionally, the evidence shows that some bags of treats seem fine, while others of the same brand are deadly.
The group Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China are asking that in cases where people’s pets die after eating chicken jerky treats, that pet owners arrange for a necropsy to be performed on the pet. The FDA will pay for necropsies where chicken jerky treats are suspected of causing death, because the results may provide important clues for their investigation.
While the domestic pet food companies importing the treats from China can issue a voluntary recall, it is beyond the FDA’s jurisdiction to require that they do so.
The Food Modernization Act (FSMA) which President Obama signed into law in 2011 is meant to give the FDA new tools and authorities to make certain imported foods meet the same safety standards as foods produced in the U.S., The Act is being implemented on a timeline, with the final changes not scheduled to take effect until 2013. However, it is unclear as to whether or not the FSMA includes pet food.
This ambiguity combined with the lack of mandatory recall has been a source of anxiety and frustration for people who have lost beloved pets and have been working to alert other consumers to the danger of feeding the treats. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Senator SherrodBrown have both criticized the FDA for waiting to act. The Department of Health and Human Services audited the FDA and made the following statement:
“FDA has developed procedures for monitoring recalls and assessing a firm’s recall effectiveness. However, FDA did not always follow its procedures in overseeing three of the five recalls that we reviewed. Furthermore, FDA’s procedures were not always adequate for monitoring large recalls. FDA’s lack of authority, coupled with its sometimes lax adherence to its recall guidance and internal procedures and the inadequacy of some of those procedures, limited FDA’s ability to ensure that contaminated pet food was promptly removed from retailers’ shelves.”
Much of the pet food buying public remains in the dark about the ongoing investigation by the FDA and the dangers of feeding the treats.
“When I make out my grocery list, I don’t check my list against the FDA website before I go to the store,” said Rachael Chambers of California, whose three dogs became ill and one died after ingesting imported treats, “Right now, that’s the only place a consumer can find out about the reports of illness. It’s an inadequate way to notify consumers.”
Chambers makes a good point. If the FDA website is the only place where product advisories are listed, it puts a significant portion of the public at risk. Senior citizens who don’t use computers, lower income individuals without internet access and other homes without computers are not likely to receive important advisories and warnings under the current system.
Chambers has proposed that legislators create a law whereby any products under FDA advisory must have the warning posted on store shelves where they are sold. Senator Boxer is spearheading this effort.
Please contact your Senators http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm and Congressmen http://www.house.gov/ and ask them to commit to consumer safety by supporting Senator Boxer’s initiative.
There have been a number of petitions created that address various aspects of this issue. Please sign and share.
Take Dangerous Treats Off of Shelves http://www.change.org/dangerousdogtreats
Ban Imported Treats http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/901/169/744/
Nestle/Purina Please Recall http://www.change.org/petitions/nestle-purina-recall-chicken-jerky-treats-made-in-china