Claim: Chicken jerky treats from China are causing illness in dogs.
Example:[Collected on the Internet, November 2011]
WARNING!!!!! It was on Fox news earlier that 70 dogs have died as a result of eating chicken jerky treats made from chicken that has come from China. Kingdom Pets brand from Costco is one of them. Also certain Blue Buffalo brand pet foods have a recall for the same thing. Please re post and make sure all your dog friends are aware.
Origins: Over the past several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued several warnings to consumers about a possible association between the consumption of chicken jerky treats and illness in dogs: one in September 2007, one in December 2008, one in November 2011, and another in September 2012. However, although the FDA has noted that they "continue to receive complaints of dogs experiencing illness that their owners or veterinarians associate with consumption of chicken jerky products," they also state "To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant." Although the FDA specifies the suspect chicken jerky treats as products imported from China, it has not identified any particular brands in its warnings.
The text of the most recent FDA advisory (14 September 2012) is as follows:
Since 2007, the FDA has become aware of increasing numbers of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats. The majority of complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), but others include duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams.
The FDA has received approximately 2,200 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats. The majority of the complaints involve dogs, but cats also have been affected. Over the past 18 months the reports have contained information on 360 canine
deaths and one feline death. There does not appear to be a geographic pattern to the case reports. Cases have been reported from all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces in the past 18 months.
Although the FDA has been actively investigating the reports of illnesses, no definitive cause has been determined. The ongoing global investigation is complex, multifaceted and includes a wide variety of experts at the FDA including toxicologists, epidemiologists, veterinary researchers, forensic chemists, microbiologists, field investigators and senior agency officials.
In the past 10 years, there has been a dramatic increase in importation of pet food from China. Human consumption of poultry in China largely consists of dark meat, leaving a large amount of light meat poultry products available for export. From 2003, when China first approached the USDA about poultry exports, to 2011, the volume of pet food exports (regulated by the FDA) to the United States from
China has grown 85-fold. It is estimated that nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011. Pet treats, including jerky pet treats are currently considered the fastest growing segment in the pet food market.
According to press accounts, the FDA has logged another 900+ reports of illnesses and deaths in dogs exposed to chicken jerky treats since its November 2011 warning, but that agency still has not linked any definitive cause to those reports:
Since 2007, the FDA has been actively investigating the cause of illnesses reported in pets which may be associated with the consumption of jerky pet treat products. Beginning in 2007, samples of products — collected at import, at retail stores, and submitted by consumers and veterinarians — have been tested by FDA laboratories, by the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (Vet-LRN), and by other animal health diagnostic laboratories in the United States for multiple chemical and microbiological contaminants. The Vet-LRN program is currently focused on testing products that have been submitted by pet owners whose pets have experienced adverse effects following ingestion of the treats. In addition, starting in 2007, the FDA reached out through the veterinary community to solicit tissue samples (blood, urine, feces, necropsy, etc.) that have been associated with active jerky pet treat cases, but to date; none of the testing results have revealed the cause of the illnesses.
To date, product samples have been tested for contaminants known to cause the symptoms and illnesses reported in pets including, Salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines) and were screened for other chemicals and poisonous compounds. DNA verification was conducted on these samples to confirm the presence of poultry in the treats. The FDA’s testing of jerky treat product samples for toxic metals including tests for heavy metals have been negative.
In 2011, samples were also submitted for nutritional composition, including fatty acids, crude fiber, glycerol, protein, ash and moisture and other excess nutrients. The purpose of nutritional composition testing is to verify the presence of ingredients listed on the label. To date, none of the testing results have revealed an association between a causative agent and the reported illnesses.
The FDA is now expanding its testing to include irradiation byproducts and is consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) experts to discuss this possibility further.
After increased complaints began in 2011, the FDA conducted five plant inspections in China during March and April 2012. These firms were selected for inspection because the jerky products they manufacture were identified with some of the highest numbers of pet illness reports. The FDA conducted the inspections to get a greater understanding of the manufacturing processes used to make the jerky pet treats and to see if this would help further the public health investigation. The FDA did identify that one firm falsified receiving documents for glycerin, which is an ingredient in most jerky pet treats. As a result of the inspection, the Chinese authority, the Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), informed the FDA that it seized products at that firm and suspended exports of its products until corrective actions were taken by the firm.
The FDA has also reached out to U.S. pet food firms to enlist their help in this public health investigation and is seeking further collaboration on scientific issues and data sharing. No specific products have been recalled. However, if the FDA identifies the cause, or a recall is initiated, the Agency will notify the public.
Blue Buffalo, one vendor of canine chicken jerky treats identified by name in the warning reproduced above, has affirmed both that it does not use meat from China (or anywhere in Asia) in its products, and there have been no reports of illness of any kind associated with any of its Chicken Jerky Treats.
Waggin Train', another brand whose chicken jerky treats were associated with this rumor, said in July 2011 that:
There is not now, and never has been, a recall of Waggin’ Train products. In 2007, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice regarding dog illnesses, but was unable to determine a definitive cause of the illnesses or a direct link to chicken jerky products. To date, extensive testing performed by the FDA has not uncovered a contaminant or specific ingredient as the cause of any illness, including in Waggin’ Train treats.
It is widely accepted that 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. Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to be used occasionally, in small quantities. Consumers should read and follow the feeding guidelines found on Waggin’ Train packages.
We have a comprehensive food safety program in place to ensure the safety of our products. We only use high-quality ingredients in our products, and the production facilities are designed and operated to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture standards. We have a dedicated team of quality control experts on the ground in China — in the plants when Waggin' Train products are being produced. They monitor various steps of the manufacturing process for safety and quality of the product.
The safety and efficacy of our products is our top priority, and consumers can and should continue to feed Waggin’ Train treats with total confidence.
(In January 2013 Nestlé/Purina issued a voluntary recall for its Waggin’ Train brand dog treats due to trace amounts of antibiotic residue being found in some samples, although such residue should not have posed a general safety risk to pets, and no pet deaths or illnesses were reported in connection with the recalled Waggin’ Train products.)
Questions and Answers Regarding Jerky Pet Treats (FDA)