Pet Food News

Jerky Treat Progress Report?

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

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October 22, 2013

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24 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Jerky Treat Progress Report?”

  1. Peter says:

    You are correct to mention “in almost 7 years of investigation” and it is impossible to be undismayed by that observation. This is a failure of government, and the awkward “document dumping” earlier in the year seemed a clumsy defense, an awkward assertion that they were “doing something,” as food safety/awareness advocates like TAPF pummeled the FDA’s lack of progress. Even when FDA does issue information, it is carefully worded so as to be nearly unintelligible (and most un-valuable) to the reader/consumer.

  2. Ann says:

    I still see the chicken jerky treats with a Made in China on the label on the shelf in many pet food aisles in major retail stores. It always worries me that some pets will be made ill by these treats and now the FDA confirms that they ARE still receiving new complaints. Since the jerky treats are not as widely available as before, it makes perfect sense that they would see a reduction in the number of complaints, but would still be getting some complaints.
    I have never heard from the FDA on my complaint to them regarding my dog’s near fatal encounter with the Canyon Creek treats in Jan 2013. They have had no interest in testing the treats that I retained that come from the same package that made her ill.
    I am not sure that they even have tests to determine why the treats are poisonous. Some have speculated that it could be a problem with using the jatropha glycerin which is toxic or that there could be a problem with the irradiation of the treats. Neither of these can be tested for.
    It is very possible that there are multiple causes of the illnesses to include the illegal antibiotics that we must remember was not found by the FDA but rather by the New York Dept of Agriculture. The FDA’s track record on finding anything wrong with the treats is dismal.
    Here is today’s headline on China and illegal drug transactions to show that anything goes in China on pharmaceuticals:
    Oct. 23, 2013, 7:42 a.m. EDT
    GSK sales to China down 61% on bribery probe
    By Jeanne Whalen
    LONDON–GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s /quotes/zigman/146635/quotes/nls/gsk GSK -1.90% pharmaceutical and vaccine sales in China plummeted by 61% in the third quarter, hurt by a high-profile Chinese-government investigation that has alleged the company bribed doctors and others to sell more drugs.

    Global sales in the quarter were flat at 6.51 billion pounds ($10.5 billion). China represents about 4% of the company’s global drug sales. Net profit fell 12% to GBP969 million from GBP1.11 billion in the previous year’s quarter.

    In an investigation that has shaken the pharmaceutical industry, Chinese authorities this summer accused Glaxo of bribing doctors, hospitals and government officials in an effort to sell more drugs at higher prices. The company has said it appears that some of its senior managers in China may have broken the law. Glaxo says it is cooperating with the investigation.
    Write to Jeanne Whalen at

  3. Gitta says:

    Where human health is up for gambling – I really don’t see any major change when it comes to pet food.

    Most troubling for me is the statement that we don’t know what is coming back from China. There is no way to guarantee those processed chicken products do not contain chicken raised in China.

    Again, financial interests of select few trump even common sense.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks for those article links. It is worse than I thought.
      If I recall correctly, the FDA went over to China to investigate the chicken jerky pet illnesses and they were not allowed into the Chinese plants to do any testing. Instead they had to rely on the Chinese to do their own testing and reporting. The FDA returned to the US with their tail between their legs.
      So how is it that the FDA orgs will be doing any oversight on the handling and processing of the US chicken sent over there?

      • Laurie Matson says:

        The Chinese Lie like a rug when it comes to them doing their own “Testing” They will have a very difficult time doing their “Oversighting”!!!

  4. marc says:

    Good reminder our government and FDA is not here to serve us the tax payers or even listen to our complaints. Reacting 7 years later. Shows no leadership and lazy employees that are really focused on doing as little work possible.

  5. Chris Teodorski says:

    “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?”

    Correlation does not imply causation. It’s that simple. It could EASILY be something ELSE in the jerky causing the illness. Jumping to conclusions is a dangerous practice.

    • Laurie Matson says:

      If it easily could be something else, it seems to me that a cause would have been found. I vote for Susan and Mollie’s theory that it is the Illegal Sulfa Antibotics. a lot of family’s had multiple Dogs. Sometimes 1 or 2 of them got terribly sick and died from Renal Failure, others(From same family) just fine, no problem. Why did 2 die and not the others? Susan and Mollie’s theory is that the Dogs that got sick and died were allergic to the Illegal Sulfa drugs and the others were not. Now to me this explains this perfectly. And as far as Importing Chicken from China for humans? Lots of people are allergic to Sulfa drugs also!! There will be human deaths too. And our typical pet loving human will share their chicken with their pet who also may be allergic. I watched my precious Chinese Crested die tragicly from a bee sting despite immediate veterinary attention and it was not pretty!!! She was stung once as a puppy and was 10 yrs old when she got the “Fatal Sting” Anyway, Susan and Mollie, Your proven reason for all these pet Illnesses and Deaths makes total sense to me!! The FDA will probably on their “Own” Discover this is the cause and take all the credit for finding the cause and not give you guys, who really Diagnosed the cause, any credit at all!!! Our Government would do that!!

      • Thanks for the thumbs up Laurie. Dr. McChesney told us that he agrees – it is the most promising explanation. I was encouraged to hear him agree with me that there is quite possibly a subset of the canine population that is hypersensitive to sulfonamides. Now, they need the science. You can’t base recalls on theory – as much as we would like that to be the case.

  6. Don says:

    My bet is that its the glycerin (which dehydrates) combined with sodium nitrate (added to dehydrated product=stomach sponge that strips the water from the system). Or could be arsenic in the chicken?

  7. Marsha says:

    The FDA will not recall the treats but today I receive an e-mail from the FDA telling me to make sure I use Heart worm meds for my dogs. I would have rather seen that they were recalling the treats. Especially since I use heart worm meds. Stupid Government!!!!

  8. Rosa Linda Dryden says:

    It would be much better to see that it has been pulled off the shelf. Other solution keep sharing and ask to not buy the product.

  9. Laurie Matson says:

    Susan and Mollie, I very much appreciate everything you do and try to do for our Pets. What you guys do also helps us humans with trying to decide what is safe to eat and what to watch for!!! Thank you <3

  10. Linda says:

    I read everything, including the 21 page report, and was impressed at how extensive the research has been. They continue to test past samples when a new possibility is considered, and they compare results of open and sealed packages.

    I lost a puppy, likely due to jerky poisoning from a U.S. manufacturer. The FDA was phenomenally responsive, and much appreciated the jerky sample and volume of data my vet and I supplied. The FDA has worked closely with vets throughout these years of investigation and research, even if they haven’t advertised it. The fact that they are now announcing a desire to work with vets doesn’t mean they weren’t doing so before.

    Everyone I encountered at both local and national levels of the FDA was caring, empathetic, and thorough. No one minded how many times I called, or how many questions I asked. Every single one had dogs, and truly understood the horror of losing a beloved pet to pet food poisoning.

    The FDA periodically issues updates on jerky. This one was more comprehensive, with links to more detailed information. Knowing first hand how hard they have worked on the jerky issue, that they are bound by law and thus can’t always do what the general public thinks they should, and how much they really care, I am dumbfounded by so much criticism and negativity.

    • Ann says:

      I am happy to hear that you had a good response from the FDA. I don’t know how long ago that was, but I reported my pet’s near fatal encounter with the chicken jerky strips in Jan 2013 and have NEVER heard from them.
      I also advised them I had remaining treats that I was holding for them to conduct tests with and they have not shown any interest at all in following up with me in the nine months since.
      I know they got my report because I received a confirmation from them at the time that I filed it and I just looked it up today and found it on page 84 or their 214 page list of hundreds of harmed pets for a one year period.
      I don’t find their performance to be impressive at all and give them little credibility after they have taken all of these years to find nothing, not order a recall, continue to allow China to send their poisonous food over here after being refused access to the Chinese factories, and letting hundreds more pets die or suffer.

      • Linda says:

        I reported in Oct 2012. The cases they select to study are chosen based on scientific data. Mine was chosen due to the age and health of the dog (less than one year), availability of product, and comprehensive lab work. I only wish I’d had an autopsy done, as that critical piece of data may have helped. They do not select cases where the dog is older, as they eliminate aging as a variable.

        As frustrating as it is, recalls cannot be done if they can’t find a scientific problem with the product. They did recall any jerky found to be tainted (e.g. Kasel recall of ALL products within a several month period).

    • I am so pleased to hear that.

      The FDA is such an easy target (I should now, I abuse them on a regular basis), it’s easy to forget that many of them probably have pets of their own and would be heartbroken if their pet died from a treat.

      I have to believe that not everyone at FDA is an ogre – at least I hope not anyway.

      I think it also worth appreciating that probably much of their work is hampered by a deplorable budget and what work does get accomplished probably suffocates under an oppressive weight of a multitude of layers of maddening levels of bureaucracy.

      Frankly, I’m amazed that anything gets done – at least that’s what I like to tell myself when I’m not busy getting a workout using them as a punching bag, that is.

    • Linda,

      I’m glad your dealings with the FDA in your locality was responsive, and caring. Still they should be doing more. They told me that they’ve issues warnings about the treats since 2007, yet, I never saw them, on the News, or heard them on the radio, they need to be aware that not everyone has the internet.

      I lost three dogs to the canned food recall of 2007. If the FDA was really doing their job, than they would have suspended all imports from China.. and if they’re going to issues Warnings, but not have they warning be by the product on the shelves, that’s nothing more, than them covering their asses. What good is a Warning, if the people buying the product, don’t know about it???

      Yes, I’m jaded, anyone who lost six dogs, because you trusted, A) the pet food industry with your dogs life B)The two agencies (USDA who failed in the 2007 canned food recall, by allowing melamine to pass through your ports) FDA that were set up by the US Govt. to keep the Consumers safe…

      If you truly want to know more about everything concerning the jerky treats etc… I suggest you visit the “Animal Pet Parents Against Treats Made in China’s” Facebook page, it’s quite the eye opener, not only regarding pet food, but our food as well.

      Thank you so much for your article ladies… one other thing I must mention, my Vets have yet to ever be notified by the FDA in regards to illnesses caused by the treats made in China…

  11. Laurie Matson says:

    Mollie, how do they get the Science part of it? I hope they don’t test those treats on a variety of Dogs in a Laboratory!! How would the science of Sulfa Allergy in Dogs be done?

  12. The FDA (Feed Death to America or Federal Death Administration, which ever you prefer to use), is double talking.. their statement regarding the “majority of the produces recalled their treats,” majority? try a whopping THREE (Canyon Creek, Waggin Train, & Milo’s Kitchen), there are others tho, that still continue to import treats made in China… like the AKC (American Kennel Club). I’ve lost three dogs in three consecutive years. Still nothing has been done. The FDA is making news about it now, because there was a Class Action Lawsuit, filed against Waggin Train earlier this month. Where a product is made, isn’t always on the packaging, it’s not “required,” the FDA “urges” companies to list it, but it’s not illegal to not list it. This is WRONG on so many levels.. if it doesn’t state where the product is made, you can best your behind, it’s made in China.

    Now there are many products (jerky treats, among others) that advertise they are “Made in America” well the product is, but guess where a lot of the ingredients come from? That’s right you guess it, China..when will the FDA sit up and do their job? How many more innocent dogs & cats will have to be sickened and die before they “realize” that anything produced in China is a death sentence?

    I attribute the “decline” not because of the product recall, but because so many dogs have died, years later after the initial poisoning. I haven’t fed any of the treats since 2009, after my first dog, a Basenji named Sargent became ill. He died from a disease, my Vets couldn’t pin point, I spent hundreds of dollars trying to save him. These treats, cause dogs the inability to pull any nutrition from the food they eat. They eat like they are starved, drink like they can’t quench their thirst, it’s not diabetes, thyroid, Fanconi Syndrome (usually a breed specific disease), they literally wither away in front of you. Their bones become week, it’s a horrible illness to have to watch any animal go through. Sargent was seven when he passes away 12/6/2010; Crackle, my 8yr old Jack Russell Terrier, passed away rather quickly, I lost her 1/30/2012. Mimi another Basenji of mine, just recently passed away, 9/5/2013. Now I’m having to watch my Service Dog for the past 12 1/2yrs, go down that same path… it’s heart wrenching. I quit feeding these “healthy, low calorie, made w/real chicken” treats four years ago… Both Basenjis stip (urine) tested negative for Fanconi up until the day they passed away, eventually, they were nothing more than walking skeletons, covered in fur, that was scarce. They all passed away in my home, both Basenjis (Sargent & Mimi) passed from a heart attack in my arms. Crackle passed away on my living room floor, she showed, little illness, but Terriers are good at hiding illness, I went out for dinner, came home and she was gone. All of my dogs, lost over half if not more of their body weight. Sargent once weighed 26lbs, he weighed just 12lbs when he passed; Crackle, weighed 10lbs. she was the short, legged, JRT she was a mere seven pounds…Mimi once weighed 22lbs, they day she passed, she weighed just 10.5lbs; and then there is Bruiser, who is still alive, but is fading fast… Bruiser once weighed 98lbs, do you want to know how much he weighs today? a whopping 54.3lbs. Bruiser saved me from a rattlesnake in 2004, and I’ve done everything to try and save him. Bruiser is a Thai Ridgeback, he can be seen at a healthy weight, (tho little did I know at the time, he was showing signs of a damaged liver, and renal failure…he was one of my dogs used for Animal Planet’s, DOGS 101, Rare Breeds, (if you view the video, he’s is the big, red, dog sitting, w/the white background; two of my Thai Ridgebacks were used for that segment, Mooshu is the smaller red TRD, w/the white background). Bruiser is a once in a lifetime dogs… he’s made many firsts for his breed; the first to be trained and used as a Service Dog & the first to earn an AKC title. Having to watch your partner of 12 1/2 years, lose a battle, to a silent enemy, one that the FDA is still allowing to happen, is unimaginable. I read labels, diligently. It should be MANDATORY that all treats have where they are made listed, and all food human/or pet have listed where the ingredients come from.

    If the FDA refuses to issue a blanket recall from all items made in China, than BY GOD THERE NEEDS TO BE WARNING LABELS PLACED ON ALL TREATS MADE IN CHINA, similar to the warning labels placed on alcohol and tobacco.

    You would have thought the FDA & the USDA would have learned their lesson about things made in China and imported to the USA, after the 2007 canned food recall deaths.

  13. dc says:

    Can anyone point me to a citation of “New York Department of Agriculture found illegal drug residues in the treats”? I can find plenty of articles stating this happened in January 2013, but there is nothing on the NYDA’s site showing this or which illegal drug residues were found.


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