Pet Food News

Is there More to the Jerky Treat Story

Was it the illegal antibiotic residue that New York Department of Agriculture found in a sample of Waggin Train and Milo’s Kitchen chicken jerky treats that caused the deaths and illnesses of U.S. pets?   Was the FDA aware of the drug residues all along?  Were treat manufacturers (importers) aware of the drug residues?  Some very concerning questions.

The following information is a collaborative effort between Mollie Morrissette and myself.  Just a theory.

The reason provided to petsumers for the recall of Waggin Train jerky treats and Milo’s Kitchen jerky treats was illegal antibiotic residues found in the treats by the New York Department of Agriculture (thank you NY!).  Both companies have stated the drugs residues were found in their treats.  Click Here and Here to read statements from each company.

The recall was announced on January 9, 2013.  As of this post (January 11, 2013), the FDA has not published the recall notices on their website or sent out the recall alert via email.  The FDA has mentioned the recalls in a related post on their site, but (very perplexed by this) they have not posted the recall press release as they do with any other recall notice.  FDA spokesperson Siobhan DeLancey told me on January 10, 2013 “We are in the process of obtaining copies of the notices from the companies and posting them. Right now, we’ve linked to the company websites. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.”

What drugs were found in the treats?

The New York Department of Agriculture told JoNel Aleccia of NBC News (who has been tremendous at keeping the spotlight on this issue alive) the drugs found in the treats are “sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin and sulfaquinoxaline”.

What are these drugs?  Sulfaclozine, Tilmicosin, Trimethoprim, Enrofloxacin, and Sulfaquinoxaline are antibiotics.  Significant to our theory, some of these drugs are known as ‘sulfa drugs’.

Why are these drugs illegal for use in animal feed in the U.S.?   One reason – specific to the sulfa drugs – is allergies.  Dr. Cathy Alinovi, DVM told us “many people are allergic to sulfa drugs – as are many animals.”  From the veterinary information on sulfonamides (sulfa drugs) states: “Hypersensitivity to sulfonamides – Renal function impairment.”

Quoting the sulfonamides veterinary information sheet “A large majority of the animals in which idiosyncratic toxicosis (allergic reaction) occurs have had a previous exposure to a sulfonamide combination.  Most cases involve a trimethoprim and sulfonamide combination.”

The New York Department of Agriculture found sulfa drugs and trimethoprim – this exact combination – in the jerky treats they tested.

One part of the theory:  The reason some dogs became ill and others didn’t was some were highly allergic to sulfa drugs.

But, there is more concern.  From the same sulfonamides veterinary information sheet it states: “Dogs are considered to be unable to acetylate sulfonamides to any significant degree.”

What does this mean?

From The Free Medical Dictionary (bold added): “acetylation – one of the synthetic biotransformations which operate in the metabolism of drugs in which metabolites are produced that are more readily excreted than the parent drug. Dogs are exceptional amongst the domesticated species in that acetylation does not occur in their tissues. Acetylation is one of the principal metabolic pathways of the sulfonamides.” 

Dr. Cathy Alinovi told us in layman terms this means “In order to break down sulfa drugs, the body needs to add an acetate molecule to the sulfa. Then, the liver says – oh, I know what to do with this – it can detoxify, break down and excrete the sulfa. Dogs cannot do that, so the liver says what the heck is this and the sulfa drug will not break down, so it isn’t removed from the body.”

Why didn’t someone know about the possibility of illegal sulfa drugs being fed to Chinese poultry before now?  It seems many people have known, and for years.

In 2008 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provided information from testing of wastewater from swine farms in China, sulfa drugs were found.  If they knew the drugs were present at swine farms, why didn’t someone investigate poultry farms?

Someone did look at poultry farms.  Late in 2012 the world learned of  investigations that chicken sold by Yum! brand Kentucky Fried Chicken in China contained “higher than acceptable levels of antibiotics”Wall Street Journal reports the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration reported “eight out of 19 batches of chicken samples Yum sent to labs for testing in 2010 and 2011 had higher levels of antibiotics.”

(Also read Mollie’s post on this from December 2012)

What a shame none of the companies that imported the dog treats from China or FDA didn’t consider testing for commonly used animal feed drugs used in China.  The FDA has never released the names of the antibiotics they have tested for.  The use of these drugs in China is common knowledge and the sulfa drug allergy issue and dogs lacking the ability to metabolize sulfa drugs has been known for years and years.  I think it was Phyllis Entis of that said (regarding the FDA’s investigation of jerky treats): ‘You can’t find what you don’t look for.’

A puzzler.  The Waggin Train recall notice states: “…voluntarily withdrawing its Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats sold in the United States until further notice.”  I’ve not seen a recall notice make the statement ‘until further notice’ before.  As well, the entire Waggin Train website is now different – the entire website is only regarding the recall – products are no longer available for viewing.

One more puzzler.  A few days prior to the recall announcement, received an anonymous email sharing there is someone that could provide information about the jerky treats made in China.  I was told this person resigned from Purina/Waggin Train over the jerky treat issue.  I contacted the person – who confirmed they were a former employee of Purina and confirmed they resigned due to the jerky treat issue.  They would not confirm or disclose any more information.  But stated they felt Purina was a good company (made me wonder why they resigned then?)  A second call to this person went straight to voicemail.  I’ve received no response.

All of this information has been shared with the FDA.  For veterinarians and scientists reading this, please provide us your input if you believe the sulfa drugs and/or combination of drugs played a role in the kidney diseased suffered by dogs previously linked to the treats.

If this theory is correct, it seems impossible no one knew about this much sooner.  If this theory is correct, there is no excuse suitable.

To read Mollie Morrissette’s account on our theory, Click Here


Just sent to me from Tony Corbo of Food & Water Watch:  In a NBC article regarding jerky treat deaths, Kingdom Pets – a US distributor of Chinese Chicken Jerky treats told NBC news in August 2012:  “They say their chicken jerky treats come from the “same suppliers for KFC China and McDonalds China” and have “never tested positive for known contaminants.”   However as stated above, KFC China and McDonalds China have admitted to drug residues in their chicken.


Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

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January 11, 2013

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26 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Is there More to the Jerky Treat Story”

  1. Curious Reader says:

    Here is the FDA Statement once again:

    “Based on the FDA’s review of the NYSDAM results, there is no evidence that raises health concerns, and these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats. FDA commends Del Monte and Nestle-Purina for withdrawing these products from the market in response to this product quality issue. FDA also welcomes additional information about NYSDAM’s testing methodology, which is different and reportedly more sensitive than currently validated and approved regulatory methods.”

    The very first statement refutes any correlation between the NYSDAM discovery of antibiotic residue (potentially harmful) in some imported chicken treats and therefore causing adverse health reactions in pets. Theirs is an absolute statement, rather than a cautionary one. Because the FDA certainly could have said that they are continuing to review the NYDOA findings, and/or they would be creating an FDA testing environment to recreate the evidence, and/or offered to work in partnership with independent laboratories to confirm/disapprove the discovery. Yet instead, via these statements, the FDA has automatically sided with their Chinese importers, and by default, the national distributors. In a contradictory statement, the FDA “welcomes” additional information about testing methodology which is (and even though it IS) supposedly more sensitive than (is) currently validated (… oh excuse me …?) and approved (…I assume …”for” …) regulatory methods. Instead of commending the NYDOA for its research, they are (very subtly) denying the validity of it… yes, in true FDA style … via technicalities! Yet the corporations are (ironically) to be commended for withdrawing a product in response to the “quality control issue”. WHAT. In summary, yes there’s a quality control issue that the FDA acknowledges, they agree with pulling the product, but they’re not recognizing the reasoning behind all of it.

    Not only does the FDA have a mental competency breakdown in their science department, they have a major communications deficiency as well, due to a lack of basic critical thinking and application.

    Incredibly you, the tax payer, is paying for this incompetency.

  2. Pacific Sun says:

    I would say that if this research came about in the most recent 3 to 6 month range of the entire issue at hand, there could be further discussion warranted. But this issue is now in the fifth year, with the laast two years having been in the media and under major scrutiny by supposedly independent laboratories. Antibiotics in poultry is a known variable, as old as the commercial industry itself. There is nothing to assure the consumer that the ones used in american processing are necessarily any safer than those used abroad. What is different, is of course, that the poultry product through dehydration (and perhaps through the addition of a lethal combination of other toxic substances) is challenging the animal’s digestive and metabolic processes. Particularly those with (and perhaps) a compromised immune system, or renal and kidney weaknesses, old age and other allergic deficiences.
    This kind of poultry is no longer a freshly killed or cooked protein, but becomes a highly extracted product. And (as was once before discussed in this forum) it has never been studied in terms of how does the ratio of normally injected chemicals change under the conditions of dehydration and additional preservation techniques. If the average consumer (like myself and many others), after a year or two worth of reading and exchanging of ideas, can figure out all of these considerations out, with a need to be investigated, then why in the world would the FDA put their immediate stamp of refusal (and ignorance) on a topic without offering the least bit of scientific reasoning or proof in the process? Why is it necessary to keep the details of whatever findings exist, to be so secretative, if more enlightenment would help to educate people in general? Good gracious, how corrupt does the government agency need to be, to protect its own interests and ignore the best interests of its consumers and taxpayers?

  3. Alan Thompson says:

    The FDA is becoming a national scandal. The cover story in the Winter 2012-13 issue of ONEARTH published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)is titled “Out To Lunch” and states boldly above the title that “The Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Agency charged with protecting our health, is a miserable failure.” The author, Barry Estabrook boldly states, “The FDA seems to adopt a ‘see no evil’ approach to potential problems.”

    In the meantime, we have people like Mr. Estabrook, JoNel Aleccia, Susan Thixton and Mollie Morrissette to thank for taking the lid off the FDA garbage can and showing us what’s inside. Maybe it will require letters to members of Congress, petitions, demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to bring much needed changes to the FDA. Or sadly, as Barry Estabrook, in the last sentence of his 7-page article concludes, “Maybe it will take a congressman losing a loved one [or companion animal?] before food safety gets the attention it deserves.”

  4. Christine says:

    I just went to the Dogswell site to look at their published test results and I don’t see any of those antibiotics listed. They say,”You may have heard recently that Milo’s Kitchen, Waggin’ Train, and Canyon Creek Ranch have recalled or voluntarily withdrawn several products. Although not thought to be harmful, they were found to contain trace amounts of residual antibiotics that are not in compliance with FDA regulations. That said, none of DOGSWELL’s products were implicated in the recall. We regularly test for a wide variety of potentially harmful agents, including antibiotics, and we post many of our test results here,” That link is for the same page that this statement was on, btw. I’m wondering why they only post “many” of their test results – not sure if that means that some things were tested for that didn’t make the reports? I doubt that (probably just means that they’re not posting every round of the same tests) , but contacted them asking for these specific antibiotics to be listed on a report on this page – hope they post them or respond to this question.

  5. Sarah says:

    Just for fun I googled “what is the best food for my cat”. I clicked on, cat food 101: what you need to know about feeding your cat. Mindy bough, senior director of client services for the Midwest office of the ASPCA states that “ethoxyquin, bha & bht are important antioxidants in cat food & have been used for over 25 years in pet food”. REALLY??? Maybe this is a stupid question but is the ASPCA a government “agency”? Are they all in cahoots with the pet food manufacturers? Who’s paying off who? Unbelievable. I know what to feed my cats & it’s definately not anything containing bha, bht or ethoxyquin!!!

    • Pacific Sun says:

      A good opportunity to make this point: The ASPCA is a front for another not so noble extreme pet organization (whose ulterior motives are to banish pet ownership) which is currently running a television solicitation campaign based on human charitable organizations. Is there animal abuse, cruelty and suffering at issue? Most certainly. Does the money donated at a national level reach the local organizations actually doing the rescue and rehabilitation work? Not necessarily, and certainly not at the majority of the dollar amount being donated. The way to help animals is through your local, even State wide authorized Animal Humane Shelter and Rescue societies, where you may track, and often see for youself, the wonderful work local volunteers and caring professionals do 24/7. What the ASPCA quoted to you regarding pet food additives (particularly Ethoxyquin) demonstrates utter ignorance, and is the perfect example of this group’s expectation that they will not be perceived for what they truly are. Do you not wonder where they are getting millions and millions of dollars to do all the prime time advertising that is saturating the networks?? Often 4 times within an hour? Exactly.

      • Peter says:

        The various well-known animal welfare organizations all have their own focus, whether legislative change, or on-the-streets activism for a purpose. All do some things well, other things not. Mostly, they leave a particular focus to each other, and do not tread on each other’s toes, and they desire to be known for that particular focus. You may have issues with any one of these groups. But the ASPCA is not a “front” for another “extreme” group. Comon. This is an important site, devoted to disseminating vital information about food safety. It’s not the place to debate or make unsupported attacks on animal welfare organizations, unrelated to their work (or lack thereof) on food safety.

        • Reader says:

          “The Midwest office of the ASPCA states that ‘ethoxyquin, bha & bht are important antioxidants in cat food & have been used for over 25 years in pet food’”. Then I’m wondering if maybe the ASPCA should stick to national televised fund raising and leave the food safety opinions to more experienced sites such as this one?

          • Peter says:

            Though we wish it would not be, the statement you caption is in fact, accurate. That is the history of modern agribusiness that produces the pet foods we buy… whether we like it or not, and whether we have become enlightened and educated more recently (including, as a result of this site). I agree, I do not appreciate ASPCA treading on the issue of pet foods, particularly when it may foster acceptance of the same old rules of pet food manufacture. That is a different topic. I refer to your absurd assertion that the ASPCA is shilling for another “extremist” organization (a characterization which in itself, many would disagree with). There are plenty of sites to undertake that debate if you want to, but give us and the owner of this site a break… this is not the place.

          • Reader says:

            I think followers will find this isn’t the average dog shop talk chat group. The people here are serious and passionate about various subjects. They’ve done their homework, read the work, look behind the scenes. They are sincerely interested in encouraging less experienced readers to do the same. The advice is to never take things at face value. To please ADD to the research, investigation and discoveries. That’s what it’s all about!

            It’s also been encouraged throughout the years to keep the comments neutral (like using “the” instead of “you”). But it does continue to be a “discussion” of accumulating comments, so as long as they’re related to pet safety and welfare. I do begin to fear whenever an isolated point of the discussion is so strongly denounced as to suggest a very sensitive bias. Then I wonder why.

            In the case the ASPCA comment, the originator beautifully clarified why the comment was introduced in the first place. Were there presumed restrictions for doing so at that point, or only now, because of incorporating it into an expanded discussion?
            The curiosity of the ASPCA comment is why an animal welfare agency would respond to a direct question about pet food (when it’s not their area of experience), by referring to questionable chemicals (regardless of the necessity or historical value of them) without adding that current research has determined alternatives? After all it’s doubtful that a child should consume a known carcinogen on a daily basis for a lifetime diet.

            Regarding pet food, is this an expectation just because it’s an “economical” diet, such as what’s being fed at rescue and shelter agencies? Is it uncontested because it’s part of well known pet foods, which are donated by profitable and image conscious corporations??

            To break it down at this point, because it certainly seems necessary to keep doing so, when someone reads that the ASPCA makes a statement like that, about those kinds of chemicals, then it seems like no big deal. Wrong. It’s just another card in a house built to fail. Chemicals might be a part of life, but the issue is ALWAYS about education, enlightenment and especially making progress.

            So shouldn’t such a visible and apparently well funded animal welfare organization operate with the very same motivations? You would think so. Particularly If the ASPCA is going to speak about pet food, then why not be responsible enough to (at the very least) qualify the comment. Or could it be the desire of one organization not to go up against another, when mutual shortcomings already exist?

            The pet industry is purposefully that, because there’s such easy money in it. From taking product shortcuts to hiding ingredient risks to inaccurate fundraising to marketplace deception. This site is devoted to opening up preconceptions and misconceptions. And I hope it is always doing that! It never hurts to look twice at anything, most especially whenever it’s pet “industry” wise related.

        • Reader says:

          First of all I did not introduce the ASPCA acting as a presumed pet food a authority, another reader did. I wouldn’t have pursued the thread, then or again, except that I thought the last comment would have gently put the topic to “rest” – but did not. And most especially because inexperienced pet food consumers are reading all comments, and putting weight on the ones from this site.

          Which is, exactly as you say, about education AND progress. Whether or not Ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT might have had (or still has) a function in pet food as it has for the last 25yrs, there would be no point to this site, unless it promoted clarification, education AND progress! If some, many, all or no manufacturers want to use those additives, it is their choice, exactly as it is the choice of every consumer to decide. But when people read something (with the appearance of authority by a very visible organization with it’s own issues) which implies those chemicals are necessary and optimal (Ethoxyquin, as with far too many chemical is a carcinogen and the others aren’t much better) then it is not contributing to the philsophy of education AND progress, would you agree?

          You can choose either, or neither. But readers are at the very least due a wide range of comments, your’s included. My task is simply to balance the slate. For another comment regarding the ASPCA here is the link:

          BTW us, I never make a comment because I have nothing else better to do.

          • Peter says:

            I cannot now correct a spelling error that should have read “the” instead of “your.”

            However, you have captioned a quote, and forwarded the discussion. The quote is accurate: those ingredients/additives ARE important to the industry. That’s unfortunate. Likewise the dumb intervention on the topic of “food” by the ASPCA. And again, you have forwarded the discussion by offering a link, why? This site is not the place to debate the worth of those organizations. There are even comments on that page, seemingly planted by CCF shills? Who knows? There are many dozens of sites to undertake that debate. Please, just not here.

  6. Jim Humburg says:

    my dog has a huge vet bill I can’t pay because of hiss love for Waggin Train duck Jerky’s and puporoni, he has had serious liver enzymes

    • Eyes Wide Open says:

      No, your household has a huge vet bill because of general ignorance about a product that has been in the marketplace FAR, far too long without disclaimer by the retailer, and by the manufacturer which should be part of EVERY package. [[Caution: some pets comsuming this product may experience adverse and life threatening symptoms. Please monitor your pet accordingly.]] I know of no other example, when it comes to the comparable welfare and safety of children, when a questionable product continues to be sold, while discussion continues over technicalities. Meaning that when some children, but not necessarily every single child, is still affected, sickened and possibly dies, in response to the very same product at issue, nothing is done to mitgate the problem! This is ONLY happening because animals are (legally) considered as livestock, expendable, and subordinate to the opportunities that corporations take full advantage of, in order to make exhorbatent profits! Am I ranting and raving? You bet. Because if I read another story, in year Five of the issue, with the last Two years of FULL media and internet coverage, where owners continue to “claim” this dehydrated treat is more important than the safety of their pet – I will scream! Are these the same kind of people still tying their dogs out on a tree, and letting them swing around in the backs of pick-up trucks, and avoiding Vet visits for years at a time? Or are they just in complete denial about the dishonesty and corruption suffocating our best interests as pet owners and consumers??? And if you think this kernel of this issue is confined only to pet products, better fear for your own welfare too.

  7. sam says:

    Our nine yr old poodle schnauzer after recently being diagnosed with a bacteria UTI was prescribed SMZ TMP (a sulfa drug)as an antibiotic. Within 24 hours we had to take her back to her vet because of her not being able to walk and excessive thirst. After the vet did more blood
    work he found that her rbc was very low as well as having low platelet count. After having an emergency blood transfusion because of dangerously low rbc…she passed away later that day. She was a healthy dog who never had any anemia issues or low platelet counts. The AIHA that she contracted was most definitely a side effect of this pure excuse for an antibiotic. The vets that prescribe this drug most definitely need to make people aware of how deadly it is before more innocent animals are killed needlessly.

    • Sarah says:

      My point in bringing up the ASPCA was basically that I was surprised that an animal welfare organization would boldly state that those chemicals are important antioxidants in pet food. People may come across that info & choose to purchase pet foods containing those chemicals based on where the recommendation came from, without doing any further research. Perhaps like people continued buying the poison jerky treats because the FDA wouldn’t issue a recall. Susans work is amazing & my point was not to take away from that. My point was basically that we need to put our trust & faith in amazing people like Susan who have our pets best interests at heart. Thanks to what I’ve learned from Susan & this website, I now know the questions to ask pet food manufacturers, which I do before I purchase anything for my cats. Thanks to her bringing awareness to these issues I no longer shop at big box chain pet stores, I shop at independant locally owned stores. I hope this comes out sounding like I hoped. Susan is awesome & we need to put our faith in people like her.

  8. Judy Bowcutt says:

    We have given our dogs Waggin Train Treats for years. Recently we took our yellow lab for a teeth cleaning and skin tag removal,the blood tests indicated her liver and kidney functions were not good enough to use anesthesia-she probably wouldn’t wake up-she died quite suddenly on 1-03-13, was this a result of these so called treats-I’m sick to think we may have been killing her slowly and also outraged. Also, my daughter’s dog died suddenly in December after vomitting blood– Was this another victim? She also was given these treats. So, What’s the truth here-someone neees to make some sense of this.

    • TAPF Fan..natic says:

      Please accept personal sympathies extended to your family for such a heartbreakingly sad experience and loss. This is something I can not imagine going through. The loss of any pet is overwhelming and the unexpected loss makes it even worse. You are to be commended so much for sharing your story in order to warn others.

      There are many issues and concerns in the marketplace and politics which confound us everyday. This is an imperfect world to say the least. While this subject is already 5 years old, it has been in the media extensively for the last 2 years. So I wonder how anyone who can further publicize the issue (yet does not) or can withold the product from Retailer (and yet does not) or can simply refuse store shelf space (and does not), and especially all the people who manufacture and distribute the products without a second thought, — explain to me how can they go home at night from a day’s worth of very hard work – and be able to function in clear conscience? How DO they face their children and friends, and continue to love their very own pets, knowing all the while that there are too many owners out there (just like “Judy”) who can not believe (and yet) must live through their misfortune. Please explain to me how people can be THAT greedy as to WANT to make a profit in spite of suffering animals and owners.

      There is not, and will never be, a website quite like TAPF which is able to communicate breaking news and to do so much “behind the scenes” investigation, research and evidence gathering, SIMPLY for the love of pets and respect for their owners! Please thank them everyday ….

  9. Peter says:

    I wish consumers had the knowledge or the willingness to shun the entire range of treats manufactured outside of the US. And it is worth noting, that the back of the Canyon Creek (under a parallel recall) and Waggin’ Train bags, in substantially large type, claim “Canyon Creek Ranch(/Waggin’Train) is an American Owned Company.” And that statement takes up a lot more space on the bag than the “Made in China” statement. Pretty sleazy.

  10. Judy Bowcutt says:

    Thank you for your comments, it’s good to know there are people who care for the welfare of animals–On another note, we bought these treats from Sam’ Club ,they had them displayed by the pallet and sold out quickly. Don’t these stores have some responsibility for what they sell to consumers. Our pets are our families and their food should be judged by the same standards .

  11. Tina says:

    Makes me glad we have fed a raw diet since 2004. We make our own cooled liver treats. Even the pet food industry admits that cats are carnivores, but dogs are too. Ditch the kibble and feed raw, your pets will be healthier for it.

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