Susan Thixton is the author of three books on pet nutrition and the founder of the website, TruthAboutPetFood.com. She strives to keep pet parents informed of food recalls and other nutrition related issues.
She recently reported on the 2019 meeting of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) where she says the FDA made a shocking announcement.
According to Thixton, Dr. Steven Solomon, FDA director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), “told the audience at AAFCO that FDA considers the Chinese Jerky Treat investigation ‘resolved.’” In other words, they are no longer investigating the issue.
The FDA has been warning consumers about jerky treats sourced from China since 2007. 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, yams, or rawhide.
While we do not have the current figures, a May 16, 2016 update from the FDA reports:
“From August 2007 through Dec. 31, 2015, the number of illness complaints linked to jerky pet treats included more than 6,200 dogs, 26 cats, and three people. More than 1,140 of the dogs died.”
The majority of owners reported gastrointestinal illnesses in their pets (with or without elevated liver enzymes) while others had kidney or urinary signs including some that developed a serious kidney disease known as Falconi-Like Syndrome (FLS).
A smaller subset of reports included a variety of other signs such as convulsions, tremors, hives, and skin irritation.
Reports of illness related to jerky treats have come from all 50 U.S. states, most Canadian provinces, and several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and Singapore.
Despite a decade-long investigation, which included help from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA never found the root cause of the illnesses. They did, however, identify a number of issues resulting in recalls for various problems, including:
- Salmonella contamination
- Residues of antibiotic and antiviral agents
- Melamine traces
- Excessive levels of glycerin
While these recalls and alerts helped to reduce the number of illnesses associated with pet jerky treats, Thixton says the problem continues.
“Dr. Solomon admitted the agency is still receiving a few complaints of sick or dead pets linked to the treats,” Thixton writes. “The serious problem DOES continue. But those pets simply don’t matter to FDA. Because they determined it’s ‘resolved’.”
In December 2018, Food Safety News reported “the agency [FDA] is dialing back its use of investigative resources on jerky pet treats to focus on other types of pet food product complaints.”
They claim this “dialing back” has allowed them to respond to several other pet food related issues including:
- Pentobarbital contamination in canned dog foods
- Thiamine deficiency in cat food
- Vitamin D excess in dog food
- Thyroid gland contamination of canned dog food and domestic jerky treats
- Salmonella contamination of dry dog foods
- Listeria and Salmonella in raw pet foods
- Dilated cardiomyopathy and grain-free dog foods
These issues certainly warrant serious attention from the FDA, but must it come at the expense of the thousands of dogs affected by the tainted jerky?
In reference to the recent announcement at the AAFCO conference, Thixton notes:
“It was shocking – Dr. Solomon’s demeanor was as uncaring as it gets, very ‘matter of fact’ delivering this terrible news. And then…he would not accept questions from the audience. He gets to drop a bomb like this and walk away without allowing anyone to question the madness of the FDA decision.”
No matter what efforts the FDA takes (or does not take) from this point forward, they still warn owners about jerky pet treats. In their most recent update on the jerky pet treat investigation dated May 16, 2016, they state:
“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet, and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians if they notice symptoms in their pets, such as decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. “
What do you think about the FDA’s decision to stop investigating the jerky pet treat issue?
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