But FDA didn’t disclose those details, the CDC did. Are pig ear dog treats the cause of human illness or is FDA using unscientific methods and just guessing?
On August 29, 2019 the FDA updated a pig ear dog treat warning originally issued on July 3, 2019 to specifically ask pet owners “to avoid all pig ear pet treats and retailers to stop selling all pig ear treats at this time.” The FDA investigation sounds concerning; “FDA is coordinating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state agencies to investigate 143 human cases of Salmonella…across multiple states.” But when you visit the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website regarding this joint pig ear dog treat investigation, we learn it took 8 months and 135 human illnesses BEFORE the FDA decided to alert pet owners to a problem. And thanks to CDC transparency, we don’t really know if pig ears are the true problem.
The CDC website states: “As of August 26, 2019, a total of 143 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 35 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 10, 2015 to July 30, 2019.”
The FDA website neglected to tell pet owners the significant piece of information that – the total of 143 human illnesses assumed to be linked to pig ear dog treats dates back 4 years (June 2015). The CDC website was more transparent, even providing this “Timeline of Reported Cases People with the outbreak strains of Salmonella by month“:
Per the CDC – there was a significant jump in reported human illnesses believed to be linked to pig ear dog treats 10 months ago – beginning in November of 2018. By February 2019 there was another significant jump in reported human illnesses linked to pig ear dog treats. But…the FDA’s first warning to pet owners didn’t occur until July 3, 2019.
If we look at the same CDC graphic as above, here is what it looks like highlighting years of human illnesses believed to be linked to pig ear dog treats with no FDA warning as compared to the one month of human illness after the FDA warning:
Per the CDC data – 135 people reported illness linked to pig ear dog treats BEFORE the FDA issued a warning to pet owners. Why did the agency wait so long to alert pet owners to a potential problem?
The FDA warning – under “Why is FDA issuing this alert?” – states “The FDA is issuing this alert because contaminated pig ear pet treats represent a serious threat to human and animal health and are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they contain Salmonella.” Again, if pig ear dog treats is really a “serious threat” – why did FDA wait 8 months (Nov 2018 thru June 2019) during a huge spike of human illnesses believed to be linked to pig ear dog treats to warn pet owners? What is really going on?
Sloppy investigation or were pig ear dog treats low hanging fruit?
It is significant to note, that no where in FDA warnings does the agency state pig ear dog treats are for certain the cause of 143 human illnesses. FDA uses non-committal language like “investigating a link” and “exposure tied to“. In fact, FDA admits 3 recalls occurred BEFORE the specific strain of Salmonella in the dog treats was confirmed; “Three U.S. firms associated with cases in the outbreak have recalled. Some of these treats have tested positive for Salmonella, and further testing is ongoing to identify the Salmonella strain(s).” FDA is required to species type strains of Salmonella, required to provide that information to pet food/treat manufacturers PRIOR to a recall. So why didn’t FDA do their required job in a prompt manner?
The CDC provides some information on ‘low hanging fruit’:
“In interviews, ill people answered questions about animal and pet food contact in the week before they became ill. Of 100 ill people, 88 (88%) reported contact with a dog before getting sick. Of 80 people with available information, 56 (70%) reported contact with pig ear treats or with dogs who were fed pig ears.”
The FDA and CDC is linking the 143 human illnesses to pig ear dog treats in part because “56” of the 143 sick people had “contact with” a pig ear or “contact with” a dog that consumed a pig ear.
Does “contact with” prove anything? Is this sound science to base recalls and public health warnings on?
It is unknown which agency – FDA or CDC – made the decision to place the blame of 143 human illnesses on pig ear dog treats. What is known is that it took 8 months and 135 illnesses for someone to place the blame. With this long of a delay, can either agency be trusted to protect human health?
Opinion: If these treats are indeed responsible for human illness, pet owners deserved a prompt warning to be issued months ago. If these treats are indeed responsible for human illness, the FDA itself should be held accountable for ALL human illnesses past the first month of rising illness reports (every human illness from December 2018 through July 2, 2019). If these treats are NOT responsible for 143 human illnesses – if they were simply low hanging fruit – one category of pet products is being destroyed based on sloppy science and assumptions. Either way, the FDA should be sued with all individuals involved held accountable.
In this age of DNA analysis, there is NO EXCUSE for FDA to investigate a potential problem in such a sloppy, haphazard manner. Pet owner tax dollars support the FDA, we deserve far better than what we are getting for our money.
Should pet owners wish to report this sloppy FDA investigation to their representatives in Congress (and please do) – make sure to share that FDA waited a full 8 months…FDA waited until 135 people were sick…before the agency bothered to alert the public their might be a problem with pet treats. As well, make sure and share with your representatives in Congress that having “contact with” a dog isn’t sound scientific method for FDA to base recalls and warnings on. Tell them our pets contribute significantly to the economy of the U.S. and our pets deserve better than what FDA is giving us.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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