The FDA released a “progress report” today on the Chinese jerky treat investigation. Well…they call it a progress report, but I found it lacking in any significant “progress”.

First of all, thanks need to be said to FDA (honestly). FDA’s Dr. Dan McChesney alerted us (Association for Truth in Pet Food) of the news there would be an update to the jerky treat investigation published on the FDA website today and should we (myself and Mollie Morrissette) have any questions to please contact him. That was a huge step forward for our consumer association to be acknowledged this way by FDA. So again, thank you to FDA/Dr. McChesney for giving us the official heads up of this news and giving us your time for questions.

Ok…now for the bad news.

The FDA update was very clear to say the agency has not identified a cause linking more than 3600 reports of sick pets and almost 600 pet deaths (reported to FDA) to jerky treats imported from China in almost seven years of investigation. And the FDA update tells us the agency is “still receiving new complaints” even though many of the major importers of the treats removed the products from store shelves in January 2013 (when New York Department of Agriculture found illegal drug residues in the treats). The FDA “progress report” does give a slight mention to their investigation into a sulfa drug sensitivity theory (that Association for Truth in Pet Food presented to FDA in January 2013), stating the FDA continues to investigate this theory however the agency states they do not believe it is the cause.

The FDA includes the following VERY confusing statement…(please read this carefully – bold added)…

“FDA has noticed a sharp drop in the number of complaints since several treat products were removed from the market in January 2013 following a study by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing (NYSDAM) that revealed low levels of antibiotic residues in those products. Recalled products included several well-known brands believed to comprise the majority of the jerky pet treat market. FDA believes it unlikely that the reports of illness it has received are caused by the presence of antibiotic residues in jerky pet treat products. Rather, because the brands that were recalled represent a significant portion of the jerky pet treat market in the United States, FDA theorizes, therefore, that the drop off in complaints since January 2013 is the more likely the result of the general lack of availability jerky pet treat products.

Huh? FDA says it is “unlikely” the illegal antibiotic residues found in the jerky treats caused the pet illnesses and deaths. “Rather” they “theorize” the “drop off in complaints since January 2013” is likely “the result of the general lack of availability”. Again…huh?

For one, NY Department of Agriculture did not do a “study”. NY Department of Agriculture tested jerky treats pulled from store shelves and found illegal drug residues in the treats.

Ok…it is a pretty safe theory that the drop in jerky treat reports received by the FDA since January 2013 (when numerous treat were withdrawn from store shelves) is “the result of the general lack of availability”…but how in the world can that be reasoning for FDA to say the illegal drugs found in the treats did not make the pets sick? This entire statement makes no sense.

It is curious as to why the FDA “progress report” never once refers to the drugs found in the Chinese imported jerky treats as illegal. In fact – they were illegal! But in the entire FDA progress report, there is not one mention that the drugs found by the New York Department of Agriculture were illegal (which is actually the reason why the treats were removed from store shelves or recalled).

In this “progress report” the FDA asks for assistance from practicing veterinarians. In what the FDA refers to as a “Dear Veterinarian” letter the agency states…

“Today, we are reaching out to ask for your assistance in FDA’s ongoing investigation in three ways:

  • Providing samples and information on potential jerky pet treat-related illnesses to our Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), an extensive network of diagnostic laboratories developed by FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
  • Posting, handing out or otherwise making available to your clients the enclosed Fact Sheet on jerky pet treat products.
  • Reporting pet illnesses associated with jerky pet treat products through the FDA Safety Reporting Portal, selecting the pet food reporting pathway.”

This is smart – a step forward by FDA. However the move is almost seven years late. Remember, the FDA states they have seen a “sharp drop” in the number of Chinese jerky treat complaints since January 2013, don’t you think practicing veterinarians are seeing the same ‘sharp drop’? Why are they only now asking for help from practicing veterinarians? This should have been done years ago. I suggest to FDA to begin reaching out to practicing veterinarians early in any investigation. Better yet, perhaps the FDA could reach out to the numerous veterinary associations to establish sound networking capabilities with practicing veterinarians in hopes to prevent similar 7 year investigations into pet deaths and illnesses.

And the FDA update tells us the agency is “still receiving new complaints” even though many of the major importers of the treats removed the products from store shelves in January 2013 (when New York Department of Agriculture found illegal drug residues in the treats). Why is the FDA “still receiving new complaints” of pet illnesses linked to Chinese imported jerky treats when so many were removed from shelves in January? Well, we can assume the reason is because the very same Chinese jerky treat manufacturers that sold illegal drug residue jerky treats to Purina and Del Monte and Hartz are STILL selling their treats to other importers. FDA has not stopped these other importers and the FDA has not warned consumers of the possibility these treats could contain risky illegal drugs. (But the FDA has issued a similar warning against a U.S. jerky treat manufacturer.)

This very lengthy jerky treat ‘progress report’ from FDA is hardly progress.  Pet food and pet treat consumers deserve better.

To read the full FDA report – start Here.  Make certain to click on each of the links listed at the bottom of the page. Plus there are more links on this page (including all of the FDA adverse event reports).

 

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

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

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