An FDA document leaked this week from a confidential source within the US Congress details the chronological timeline of tests that the agency has performed on chicken jerky treats since 2007 – tests which many pet owners say have ignored some of the most potentially lethal substances possibly responsible for the rash of pet illnesses and deaths.
The FDA has been aware of problems with chicken jerky imported from China since they started receiving reports in 2007 from dog owners about pets that grew ill or died after eating the treats. 2007 was the year of the massive pet food recall when over 8,500 pets died from eating tainted pet food.
In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the number of complaints decreased, but in 2011 reports began to surface again. In the first two months of 2012 the number of complaints has doubled those received since 2007. It is clear that again there is a correlation between treats from China and illnesses and deaths of pets. Since issuing their update in November of 2011, the FDA has received approximately 529 complaints regarding possibly tainted treats.
The newly leaked FDA document raises more questions than answers.
The list details tests have been performed for known toxins such as vitamin D toxicity, melamine and diethylene glycol (antifreeze). The document also indicates that tests were performed for various molds and microbiological contaminants, as well as salmonella and formaldehyde. None have been conclusive in pinpointing any particular source of the contamination.
Of these tests, all have been negative or within the FDA’s accepted range of being below toxic levels, even in samples which contained trace amounts of diethylene, propylene or ethylene glycol. According to the Poisoned Pets website “Approximately 1100 shipments of bulk glycols are received in the United States per year, yet despite the growing cases of deadly contamination, the FDA currently only tests for the fluid formulas. In other words, if the adulterated glycerin is on a product or in a product it is highly unlikely it will ever be discovered.”
The report indicates that the tests for melamine, and mycotoxins, (toxic substances formed by certain molds that grow on plant materials which are known to be toxic to the kidneys,) have all been negative.
Many of the FDA tests have looked for toxicants that do not actually cause the symptoms that pets are exhibiting. Salmonella and molds do not cause kidney failure or acquired Fanconi Syndrome, yet the FDA has tested for these two possibilities at least 84 times while ignoring other potentially life saving tests.
Heavy metals are one of the primary causes of acute renal failure, but heavy metal tests had not been performed until this year. The document states that results of those tests are still pending. Heavy metals include: antimony, arsenic, bismuth, cadmium, cerium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, platinum, silver, tellurium, thallium, tin, uranium, vanadium, and zinc; all of which can cause acute renal failure in subjects exposed to toxic levels.
Of the 130 chicken treat samples that the FDA has already tested this year, fifty-eight are being tested for metals and/or organic compounds; seventy-two are being tested for DNA analysis.
Results from these tests are still pending.
The fact that so many samples are being tested for DNA analysis suggests that the FDA is questioning that the chicken treats are, in fact, made of chicken.
After several government officials pressured the FDA, it is reported that the agency has agreed to inspect four Chinese facilities along the supply chain for the product and to expedite the testing.
Unfortunately for pets, chicken jerky treats are still available to consumers, and stores continue to not post the FDA warning about the products imported from China. The Facebook group – Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China is organizing a protest of stores still selling the treats for April 1, 2012. The Facebook group had just over 100 members a few weeks ago, but today they have over 2,200 members, indicating that more pets are being affected by the treats that still line store shelves.
Meanwhile, the response of pet food companies importing treats to consumers has been underwhelming. Pet owners are claiming many companies have stubbornly refused to voluntarily recall the treats as a precautionary measure and have instead sought to shift the blame to consumers by accusing them of overfeeding the treats.
About the author: Ariel Wulff is an author, artist and animal advocate. She has worked in animal rescue for more than 24 years, authoring the book Born Without a Tail, a memoir of her experiences with rescued animals. She writes a column as the Cleveland Pets Examiner, and is the National Animal Books Examiner. She also maintains a personal blog about dogs: Up on the Woof, and uses her yelodoggie art to spread the joy of living with dogs.