Pet Food News

It Just Happened

Why is it that the FDA appears to be protecting Chinese jerky treats?  Everything happens for a reason.  Some pieces of the puzzle.

In October of 2013, the FDA told the public of their progress into the almost seven year investigation of pet deaths and illnesses related to jerky treats imported from China.  Through Freedom of Information Act request, we learned that what the FDA told the public in October 2013 wasn’t exactly accurate.

Briefly – the FDA told the public (October 2013) that New York Department of Agriculture found insignificant amounts of antibiotic drugs in the treats; “it’s unlikely that they caused the illnesses”.  However, through our Freedom of Information Act request, we learned that the testing done by New York Department of Agriculture actually found very high levels of antibiotic drugs in the treats – well above the tolerable limit (which was the legal foundation for the recalls and product withdrawal of January 2013).

Questions were sent to FDA asking why…why did FDA report such low levels of drugs found in the treats when NY Department of Agriculture found much higher levels?

Their response…“The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) conducted two different sets of tests identifying adulterants in jerky pet treats. One sample testing was performed under the VET-LIRN (for FDA’s investigation) program, and the other sample testing was performed solely by and for NYSDAM. The sample sets tested differed for each studies.  In the VET-LIRN/FDA testing, FDA provided two separate product sample sets to NYSDAM. Results from tests on those samples are reported on the FDA web site: The results posted on the FDA website reflect only the testing that NYSDAM performed on behalf of FDA on the products we collected and provided.”

In other words, FDA is claiming that New York Department of Agriculture just happened to find the high levels of drugs in the Chinese treats all on their own.  That the testing NY did for FDA just happened to find low…insignificant levels of antibiotics…you know, levels so low it is ‘unlikely to cause illness’ in pets.

We tried to validate this (ridiculous) FDA claim, with a Freedom of Information Act request of FDA.  We asked FDA for the test results NY Department of Agriculture provided FDA on testing of jerky treats…but it just happens that FDA has yet to respond to our request.

On 11.3.13 FDA received our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.  Federal law requires a FOIA to be responded to within 20 business days.

Twenty-five business days later (12.6.13) an email was sent to FDA asking the status of our FOIA request.  They stated…
“Your request is pending a response from our New York district office (716)541-0377, and the Center for Veterinary Medicine (240)276-9120.
Thank you.
Rochelle A. Coleman
Information Technician
Food and Drug Administration
Division of Freedom of Information”

More than 80 business days later (on 2.10.14) another request for our FOIA information was sent to FDA.  Another seven days later (as of today 2/17/14), the FDA has not responded.

So we are left with the suspicion that FDA is somehow and for some reason protecting Chinese jerky treats and the companies that make billions importing them.  Supporting those suspicions, it just happened that Purina met with FDA three times during 2013.

On 2/15/13 Bernadette Dunham director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine met with Chris Cowell, Adrian Palensky, and Larry Thompson of Nestle Purina Pet care.  The subject of this meeting (per FDA website): “Center for Veterinary Medicine Overview.”

On 6/12/13 Bernadette Dunham director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine met with Chris Cowell, Adrian Palensky, Ed Vanyo, Nina Leigh, Keith Schopp, Dan Smith, and Larry Thompson of Nestle Purina Petcare.  The subject of this meeting (per FDA website): “Center for Veterinary Medicine Overview.”

On 12/11/13 Bernadette Dunham director of FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine met with Ed Vanyo, Adrian Palensky, Keith Schopp, Chris Cowell, Larry Thompson of Nestle Purina Petcare.  The subject of this meeting (per FDA website): “Center for Veterinary Medicine Update.” 

So we are left with…

  • It just happened that FDA neglected to share the high levels of drugs found in the jerky treats from China found by NY Department of Agriculture.
  • It just happened that New York tested the very same Chinese jerky – in their own tests – and they tested significantly higher than what tests were done by New York for FDA.
  • It just happened that FDA did not respond to Freedom of Information Act request.
  • And it just happened that Purina visited with FDA three times during 2013.  Oh and by the way, it just happened that no other pet food manufacturer met directly with FDA at all during 2013 (their lobby groups did – but not a manufacturer directly as with Purina in 2013).

Did all of this just happen?  Is it innocent coincidence?  In my opinion – nothing ‘just happens’ with FDA.

It is FDA responsibility to protect our pets from contaminated foods and treats.  They are not protecting our pets with Chinese jerky treats.  All Chinese jerky treats should be required by FDA to be removed from store shelves until FDA can guarantee no more pets will get sick or die from the treats.


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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February 17, 2014

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11 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “It Just Happened”

  1. Kelley Hayden says:

    I agree. Given the history of CJTs, the onus of safety needs to be on the manufacturer & the distributor. Clearly there is a conflict of interest between the FDA failing to err on the side of safety versus continuing permission. Other than boycotting the products and spreading the word, what else can we the consumers do? Please suggest. With much appreciation for all the research, communication and caring that you put into your work. I can’t imagine being without your advocacy.

    • Susan Thixton says:

      Thanks Kelley – I would like to see a meeting of FDA with pet owners that have suffered so from these jerky treats. I’m not confident it would change things – but I feel FDA needs to look these people in the eyes, to hear their stories of heartache first hand. It would be nice to invite all major retailers of the treats (Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Petsmart, Petco) too. If they are going to continue to sell the treats – the very least they can do is hear the personal stories from those that have paid the biggest price for the treats.

    • Perhaps if some of these people had to eat these treats they would look at things differently. Now that Chinese has taken over Smithfield Packing in VA, I won’t be eating much pork either. Almost all the pork in local stores is Smithfield or Gwatney (same thing) so my once a month bacon and the dog’s most special treat will have to be replaced with something else. Nothing eatable from China is being served here.

  2. Rita DeSollar says:

    Bravo, Susan. It Just Happened that my dog was one of the ones that died.

  3. Mary Kay Gerrets says:

    Have you tried contacting Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio regarding the lack of cooperation from the FDA? He has been a great friend on this issue.

  4. Cora Vandekar says:

    My Cloe died from eating this junk too. I had half my pack getting sick (5 dogs) all at the same time.. Thank you for standing up to them..

  5. Noe Bunnell says:

    100% agreed. This whole affair just continues to get worse and worse. It’s not even surprising anymore, just maddening and terribly sad. The FDA can’t be trusted – they’re obviously in Purina’s pockets. It’s really too bad that money means more than lives to the FDA. It makes you wonder what other scandals they are involved in, in areas other than pet treats… scary.

  6. Jack Wade says:

    Susan, I’ve had numerous FOIA requests and run-ins with the IRS over the years. I could write a book about the lies I have been told. What I discovered was that once I filed a FOIA lawsuit, I got more respect from the Division involved. Over the years I had to file 3 separate FOIA lawsuits with 3 different IRS divisions. The reason is a FOIA lawsuit will bring in the Justice Dept. who will shake things up. That’s not to say that some things weren’t difficult during the lawsuit by the DOJ lawyers, but afterwards I didn’t get the run around from the IRS Division involved. DOJ lawyers can be a bit wacky too. For example, I had one try to put me in the same category as prisoners and drug dealers. Another thing I discovered is that they frequently miscite cases in their briefs to distort their position. I would suggest that it’s time to file a FOIA suit against FDA.

    • Filing a suit against the FDA sounds like a good idea, especially to get their attention. And let them know the TAPF Association isn’t going away. As in wouldn’t it just be easier for them to comply? But is there a cost to litigation? If so, then maybe the TAPF Association needs donations for this cause. The conflict in reporting results among the agencies is a serious matter. If this discrepancy is to be examined, the consumer’s well founded lack of confidence in the FDA can be demonstrated. Please let the readers know if they can support this cause.

  7. Terri Janson says:

    This is just so sickening. I don’t feed any commercial treats. I make my own. I’m just hoping the ingredients I use are safe…Who knows anymore.

    Thank you Susan for all your hard work!

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