Last March, I stopped in one of the larger grocery stores in our neighborhood to get some rawhides for Rocket and Waldo. Only a few weeks earlier, more than half of one entire aisle was nothing but dog treats…but when I got to the pet section I had to search around to find the treats, and when I did, there were only a dozen or so SKUs. The treats had been moved and condensed because the month before, several major brands had recalled the chicken jerky and other treats they were manufacturing in China.
I stood in the aisle and was overcome with a deep sadness. Not because the treats had been recalled…I was really happy about that. I’d worked very hard for the better part of a year with other pet owners to get the treats pulled from the shelves.
I was sad because while I stood and looked at the smattering of treats to choose from, I knew that more than 400 dogs had died before the pet food companies had finally recalled their products. I thought back to the thousand or so pet owners I’d been in contact with over the past year, as they had shared stories and photos of their pets who had fallen ill or died from eating the treats. I thought about how we had gone into stores and stickered the treat packages with warnings, and posted flyers, and shared the word on websites and blogs and social media. I thought about all the pet owners coming together who had lost their pets, filing a class action suit and providing samples to the FDA and private labs and doing whatever they could to help investigators. I thought about how we had begged the FDA to insist the companies recall the products, and I thought about how the companies had deleted comments on their Facebook pages, denied that there was anything wrong with the treats, and ridiculously insisted that all of those pet owners were using their products incorrectly.
Then the FDA found the antibiotics.
All of the treats pet owners had been naming as the ones making their dogs sick, (Waggin Train, Milo’s Kitchen, & Cadet) were found to have ‘trace’ amounts of illegal antibiotics. The manufacturers and FDA both refused to say it was what was causing the deaths, but it made sense from a lay person’s standpoint. Not every dog who ate the treats was dying. The smallest dogs were the most likely to die…as if there were a cumulative effect. Isn’t that the way drug allergies or overdoses work? Some people get sick, others don’t? Some die, others don’t?
Manufacturers finally pulled the products from store shelves, but a year had passed. For all of us who had written the FDA, dog food manufacturers, legislators, vets and media, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that no more pets had to die.
The FDA still won’t say the antibiotics are what killed those pets and made thousands more sick, although they are not ruling it out. They continue to look for the cause of the illnesses, and are considering cumulative toxicity. The subject is in the news again since October 22, when the FDA posted an update on their website.
The manufacturers can continue to deny that there is anything wrong with their products, but the FDA reported that after the treats were recalled, there was an immediate drop off of consumer complaints.
The FDA update states that more than 580 dogs have died, and more than 3,000 became ill. And while the manufacturers have said to the general public that their products are wholesome and healthy, behind the scenes at least one major supplier has been quietly working to pull all of their production out of China and move it into Thailand, reformulate the jerky (tweak the ingredients) and change their feeding requirements to a lower daily feeding amount.
One can only assume it’s a stop gap measure they’d like to have in place before the Class Action Lawsuit goes before a judge.
The only allegiance that these pet food and pet treat manufacturers have is to the almighty dollar. Their integrity has decreased in inverse proportion to rising profits. If they really cared about our pets, would they have allowed their products to stay on shelves endangering more and more dogs every day? Why put even one more pet at risk? How do the CEOs and other executives of these companies sleep at night, knowing how many families were grieving the loss of their pets while they continued their denial and bold faced lies? Didn’t the Chinese melamine debacle in 2007 teach them anything?
As if all of this isn’t horrible enough, this week the USDA has approved chicken products from four Chinese poultry processors to be sold in the U.S. without bearing country of origin labeling that indicates where the chicken comes from!
Recall that the next time your kid asks for chicken nuggets.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1