Okay, this is the fifth post I’ve written on the canine and feline illnesses that appear to be associated with jerky-style treats imported from China. I didn’t intend to create a timeline for this incident, but if you’re interested in seeing how things have progressed over the last few years, or aren’t familiar with this problem, read the first four pieces in the series and then rejoin us here when you’re done.
You’re back? Good.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted an update to their website on September 14. I’ve highlighted important new information below:
The FDA has received approximately 2,200 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats [including chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams]. 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.
A cause has still not been identified, but the FDA’s list of potential contaminants that have been tested for now reads "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 … other chemicals and poisonous compounds." The FDA has also expanded its testing "to include irradiation byproducts and is consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) experts to discuss this possibility further."
Interesting. Irradiation has been used for years to reduce the risk of food borne illnesses and extend the shelf-life of foods intended for both human and animal consumption. If you’re interested in learning more about the subject, Wikipedia actually has a really good entry on food irradiation that includes a section about an incident in Australia, when 16 cats developed lesions in their brains and spinal cords and were euthanized as a result of eating a certain brand of cat food. The manufacturer mentioned irradiation as a possible cause, but investigations never determined the reason behind the illnesses. Australia did subsequently ban the practice of irradiating imported cat foods.
One comment that keeps coming up in response to all the current problems with jerky treats is, "Why hasn’t there been a recall of these products?" The FDA answers the question this way:
There is nothing preventing a company from conducting a voluntary recall. It is important to understand that unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that 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 alone. This is an ongoing investigation and FDA will notify the public if a recall is initiated. Currently, FDA continues to urge pet owners to use caution with regard to jerky pet treat products.
I’ll do more than "urge pet owners to use caution." Don’t feed your pets any type of jerky made in China until this problem is resolved.
Dr. Jennifer Coates