Pet Food News

Did Dunham Ditch Us?

We had a chance to finally get a public warning against Chinese jerky treats; the AVMA was considering issuing a resolution to discourage the feeding of these Chinese pet treats. But “According to one source, comments by FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Bernadette Dunham on the contamination issue appeared to weaken support for the resolution.”  Did Dr. Bernadette Dunham ditch consumers?

A petition sent to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) would have sent a nationwide message that discouraged the feeding of jerky treats from China.  Part of the resolution stated “Adulterants have been found in jerky pet treats, and to mitigate the risk that pets may become sick and potentially die from ingesting them, the AVMA discourages the feeding of jerky pet treats until further information on their safety is available.”

But it didn’t pass.  The AVMA voted against the nationwide warning.  Why?  Why didn’t AVMA stand up and support consumers on this issue?

One site says it might have been Dr. Burnadette Dunham – director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine is who “appeared to weaken support for the resolution.”

Quoting Food Chemical News report on the AVMA vote (bold added) “A resolution before the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) that would have discouraged the feeding of jerky treats to pets was not adopted at the AVMA House of Delegates winter session Jan.10-11 in Chicago. According to one source, comments by FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Bernadette Dunham on the contamination issue appeared to weaken support for the resolution.” 

I sent FDA questions – provided them with the above quote and asked to be provided with Dr. Dunham’s statement to AVMA.

The FDA replied:  “Dr. Dunham attended a session at AVMA’s recent meeting in which the AVMA House of Delegates proposed a resolution to discourage the feeding of jerky pet treats because adulterants had been found in jerky pet treats. Dr. Dunham did not argue for or against the resolution, but instead noted that the adulterants that had been found in jerky pet treats had not been identified as the cause for the numerous adverse event reports that FDA has received from the public.”

Remember – through our Association for Truth in Pet Food, I did a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to New York Department of Agriculture.  I asked – specifically – to be provided with the test results of Chinese jerky treats NY sent FDA.  Another Freedom of Information Act request done was to FDA; specifically asking to be provided with the test results of Chinese jerky treats FDA received from NY.  NY Department of Agriculture provided their documents in a timely manner.  FDA on the other hand- in violation of federal FOIA law – has yet to respond.

From the FOIA information provided by NY Department of Agriculture, we know that the FDA underreported (significantly underreported) the levels of drugs found in the treats.
FDA reported (in October 2013):
Drug Sulfaquinoxyline “highest concentration 0.041 ppm.”
FOIA documents from NY Department of Agriculture stated (actual test results…aka the truth):
Drug Sulfaquinoxyline highest concentration 0.828 ppm.

FDA underreported 20 times less than actual test results.

One more…
FDA reported Drug Sulfaclozine “highest concentration 0.257 ppm.”
FOIA documents from NY Department of Agriculture stated (actual test results…again, the truth):
Drug Sulfaclozine highest concentration 1.598 ppm.

FDA underreported 6 times less than actual test results.

So…I wrote my contact at FDA again and provided her the discrepancy between what FDA told the public in October and what FOIA documents stated.  “This huge discrepancy is also my concern of what Dr. Dunham told AVMA.  This that is why I was asking what she told AVMA.  I would still like to know if Dr. Dunham reported the FDA’s version of levels of drugs found (as told to the public in October 2013) or what NY Department of Agriculture is reporting and that was sent to FDA.”

The FDA responded “I will follow up on this and get back to you.”

If Dr. Bernadette Dunham stood before the AVMA and told the voting members the drugs found in the treats were below allowable limits (as they told the public in October 2013)…well, I can understand why the resolution didn’t pass.  Most veterinarians are going to believe the Director of Center for Veterinary Medicine.  If Dr. Dunham told AVMA members false/incorrect lab results of the jerky treats…did she ditch consumers by doing so?

Should the FDA provide me with transcript of what Dr. Dunham told AVMA – it will be posted.  (But don’t hold your breath.)


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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January 31, 2014

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31 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Did Dunham Ditch Us?”

  1. Ann says:

    Sadly it appears that the FDA and the AVMA are in the pockets of the Pet Food Institute. Thanks for your perseverance on this important matter.

  2. Reader says:

    Isn’t is sad when people put their careers over the health and safety of pets? Lying shouldn’t be acceptable in any profession. If a distortion of facts exists in this case, and it goes uncorrected (or even unclarified) after being questioned, then what use is this position of responsibility and oversight? And what good is the value of the generous salary being paid for the so-called (yet deceitful) expertise??
    Think about it.

  3. Terry says:

    Thank you Susan – this is important work that you are doing!

  4. Lilly says:

    WOW this just kills me…funny that the AVMA was quick to make a public statement discouraging the feeding of raw meat diets due to the risk of pathogens when there is NO clear documented cases or legitimate research indicating that pets or their guardians have ever died or even been sickened as a result of consuming raw homemade or commercial pet food diets. Yet, we have some very STRONG evidence that the chicken jerky treats from China have been adulterated and many pets have suffered and died as a result. Could the writing on the wall from these organizations be any more clear!!! Disgusting!!

    • Jeri says:

      I agree. The AVMA lost all credibility with me when they went after the non-issue, ignoring the very valid concerns with the numerous illnesses and deaths due to KIBBLE which was recalled! No credibility whatsoever. I give my support to the AHVMA instead.

      Susan, is there no way to go on the AVMA site and find out what you want to know? If there’s a transcript online somewhere, it can be found!

  5. Dan says:

    Very interesting. AVMA reps won’t support a nation wide warning against chinese chicken jerky products that have been linked to thousands of illnesses and deaths, after substtances have been confirmed to be illegal in their use, but they DO release warnings against raw diets when there were no ongoing illnesses or deaths??

    Seems very shady. Not surprising, considering the doctors that provide their training typically help in the formulation of one product, and not the other…

    It’s all about money…integrity in big pet food is nearly impossible to find.

  6. Nina Wolf says:

    Does it matter if the cause has been found? Can the incidents of illness not be enough to warrant cautions being issued? Did people need to understand what caused the plague to quarantine stricken towns?

    • Regina says:

      excellent point! Even if they couldn’t comprehend what was causing the illnesses, the sheer number of illnesses has gotta be a big red flag!

  7. Lynn Utecht says:

    It’s time to sue the FDA for not providing the FOIA items requested……

  8. barbara says:

    I am surprised that Dr Bernadette Dunham was so delusional to think that someone would not do research and find out the discrepancy of facts.

  9. Betty Burkett says:

    Should we as members of Consumers write to the FDA and the AVMA with our concerns or just even as citizens and pet owners?

  10. Candence Griffin says:

    I am so glad the fight to get these DEADLY treats off the market remains stubbornly persistent! These treats nearly killed our beloved Promise, a nine year old Basenji girl, who has been in LSA REMISSION since May of 2009. Promise loved them and being the doting Basenji mom, I bought them frequently because of the high protein value. I’ve had Basenjis (19 of them) for over 38 years and I use to compete in Confirmation, obedience and lure coursing. Promise and brother Connor, were my first ‘pets’, the other 16 had to work for a living. Back in August of 2008, I noticed all of her external lymph notes were enlarged. One or two, usually under the jaw could have indicated a tangle with an insect or two – but this was all of them -under the jaw, on the shoulder, behind the front leg (chest level) and back leg (upper thigh,back side) – on both sides. The nodes under her jaw and on her shoulder were affecting her ability to breath. Needle biopsy was inconclusive and my vet, wisely, waited until the biopsy for one of the shoulder nodes came back. Giving Prednisone before Chemo is risky because Prednisone represses the immunity system. Her results were LSA, stage 3. Without Chemo, even with Prednisone to counteract her symptoms, she was given 4 months at best. Promise would turn 4 in December. Needless to say, we were devastated, because she was incredibly young and we financially strapped because the economy had tanked. Promise was given an aggressive chemotherapy consisting of three drugs – Vinchristine, Cytoxain, Vinchristine, Doxirubinsin – one drug a week, then a two week rest. She had five cycles of this protocol. We were also supplementing her with K9 Immunity, which helped her immunity system. The side affects from the chemo – nausea, neuropathy, chronic loose stool – Promise fought it all and won. It’s tricky to vaccinate her and we have no earthly clue how long she’ll survive but she’s made it so far. She’s healthy (CBC w/diff ever so often) and happy. I make my own dog food, for the most part. I am very leery of any prepared food, even food for my husband and I.

    • Candence Griffin says:

      I apologize for my senior moment yesterday – Prednisone DEpresses the immunity system.
      I also forgot to include my own theory of why these chews are toxic. I had years of experience working with the Hazardous material system for the Navy, so I was familiar with lead poisoning. I suspect the racks used to ‘dry out’ the chicken breasts are coated with lead based paint. Raw chicken will absorb just about anything it touches, so isn’t a stretch to see how the chicken could be contaminated. The companies in China have been notorious for lead contamination and lead, even in small quantities, can cause cancer. When US companies are negotiating for a product, they are more concerned about the price and contents of the product not the way it is manufactured. This gives China a distinct advantage of ‘omission’ unless it is specified in the contract they can not use equipment that has / had exposure to or covered by lead / lead based products. It’s all in the way the contract is written as well as how it is interpreted. Having read through CFRs (Code of Federal Regulations) and other documentation such as Military Standards and Specifications, I can’t imagine any company for profit, especially for products made outside the US, adhering to such tight controls. This is precisely the reason so much production is located overseas. Less control and wide subjective interpretation of a contract with tons of ambiguity.

  11. Ellie L says:


  12. Ellie L says:

    The AVMA is totally sold out to the pet food industry. The commercial pet food makers start out by supporting the veterinary colleges and then seep into every veterinary practice with all kinds of monetary incentives and perks.
    It is sad that these people who go through the trouble of being educated in maintaining the health of animals are so determined to help undermine their health long term by pushing highly processed low quality food on the market.
    The AVMA choose to take a public stand against raw feeding when even the smallest amount of common sense would tell them that all animals were designed to eat raw food.
    Over vaccination is another front in which they are harming our animals and who is it except the veterinarians that inject our livestock, meant for human consumption, with hormones, steroids, and antibiotics?

    • Jeri says:

      Sad, but true. Excellent post. When they started in on homeopathy, they got a huge blowback from the paying public and had to backtrack quickly. Of course there were vets within the organization who opposed passing a resolution against homeopathy — pretty much the same group who were opposed to the raw food ban — but this time they were heard, apparently. The AVMA did not appreciate the link many made between the two issues, however, when it was done repeatedly on their Facebook page. Guess the truth was a bit too much for them in the light of day. Amazing how that works….As I said, considering their “take” on the raw food issue as well as a few other issues on which they have stood four-square against what is best for animals, and their attempts to push through a homeopathic “ban” among their membership last year, they have ZERO credibility on animal health in my household!

      • Ellie L says:

        Corruption and greed, plain and simple. It is so blatant that it is difficult to comprehend. I guess the general public has become so blind to the truth about any kind of food that these people feel they have an open door to do do whatever they please.
        The mainstream media is compliantly silent even about what is done to the human food supply much less the pet foods.

  13. Rev. Col. K.Dale Frazier says:

    Apparently; this leads one to believe that it is all about the $$$$ . Makes us wonder who is getting PAID OFF or whatever to save China’s Jerky ?

  14. Carol says:

    Does this have something to do with the fact the the US owes China so much money and “we” are afraid to say “NO”??
    If people would just stop buying these deadly treats – it might wake the gov’t up. Doubtful though.
    I never feed anything but treats I know are made in the US (goes for kibble as well) and am always looking for recalls, etc.. to protect my two precious babes.
    So sad that it is allowed to basically kill our pets.

    • Ellie L says:

      Sadly, few people actually read labels or pay attention to ingredient lists. Some of those treats were not even labeled as being from China. Some are sold by American companies so people think they must be safe.
      Issues about the safety of the food supply for humans or animals in this country are rarely mentioned in mainstream media. You may hear about recalls now and them but not many facts about what the actual issue is.

  15. Sandra Todd says:

    Thank you so much for your in depth research into these matters. I recently subscribed to your magazine after reading many of your posts on Facebook and am so pleased with the contents. I am letting my subscription lapse to another publication that I have subscribed to since 2002 because they no longer are totally holistic and the articles don’t speak to my beliefs the way they used to. You guys rock!

  16. jennifer says:

    No, keep feeding stuff from China – It’s keeping the vets and pet stores in business. Why would they want you to stop?

  17. Dani says:

    We have the best government money can buy. Pets don’t have the economic (i.e. political) clout of China who basically owns us.

    • Regina says:

      Oh my gosh! Excellent point!

      I personally do not buy anything for my pets that is not made in the USA. Food, treats, toys. If it goes in their mouth, it has to be made in USA. Just think of all the toys from China that were toxic to children. My pets are my children, so to me, they’ve got lots of clout!!!

    • Pacific Sun says:

      I’m certainly not arguing any of the larger points. But to clarify, “pets” are indeed an industry (thus the economic consequence) unto themselves. While we think of them as family (we personalize them) they are but “livestock” in an agri-business sense. The only exception being that individual consumers “choose” to spend (discretionary) money whioh amounts to (collectively speaking) hundreds of thousands of dollars on them! When regulations are constructed to govern cattle, chickens, pigs, etc., they are measure in large quantity. Unfortunately that is also how are companion pets are regulated. So, going strictly by the numbers, even “thousands” of ill pets don’t offset millions of animals not affected. We will never make progress in the PFI until “livestock” (animal) feed is separated from companion pet feed, with stricter (including more subjective and exclusive) oversight, response and corrections!! It isn’t that the FDA doesn’t know what it’s doing, or is being heartless, they just don’t have the capacity (or directives) to manage the health and welfare of our pets with the idea that every single one of them matters! However … IF all this had to do with “baby food” you’d better believe that even ONE proven illness or death would be dealt with!

      • Regina says:

        Pacific Sun, you make an excellent point. Companion pets really are a whole different class of animals. . . Hmmmm, that being said, if we care what our pets eat, shouldn’t we care what our food eats??? . . . The whole system is screwed, ruled by the almighty dollar.

      • Ellie L says:

        Sorry, but I am not happy with what the FDA approves for being fed to and injected into the livestock that I am supposed to put on the table for my family to eat!
        The FDA does not care what it is doing to the citizens of this country and they care even less what is done to our pets!

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