580 Pet Deaths Linked to Jerky Treats, FDA Looking for Cause Since 2007

BY | October 23 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY

October 22, 2013

 โ€“ The FDA has issued a statement warning about illnesses linked to jerky treats that have killed 580 pets to date. The total number of animals affected is much higher: "As of Sept. 24, 2013, over 3,600 dogs and 10 cats have reportedly become ill from eating jerky pet treats."What exactly is causing the illnesses, which have resulted in pancreatitis, kidney failure, a rare kidney disorder called Fanconi syndrome, and gastrointestinal bleeding, remains unclear."This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we've encountered," says Bernadette Dunham, head of the FDA vet medicine center.

Ties to Jerky Treats and Ingredients from China

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China, sparking FDA visits to manufacturing plants in that country. But no new recalls are currently being made. "At this point we donโ€™t have enough evidence to do a blanket recall within the authority that we have," said Martine Hartogensis, a deputy director for the FDAโ€™s Center for Veterinary Medicine.What we do know is that of 22 โ€œPriority 1โ€ cases of animal illness listed by the FDA late last year, 13 of them cited Wagginโ€™ Train or Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats, which are produced by Nestle Purina and 3 more list Miloโ€™s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats.("Priority 1" cases are those in which the animal is aged 11 or younger and medical records that document the illness are available.)In January of this year, both were recalled: Nestle recalled Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats and Milo's Kitchen recalled its Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers Home-style Dog Treats. Both recalls were due to trace amounts of residual antibiotics found in the treats, but the FDA says "it's unlikely that they caused the illnesses."Other jerky treat recalls have been made throughout the year:Publix in January, Nutri-Vet in February, Dogswell in July, and Joey's Jerky in September. Most of these recalls were made due to Salmonella contamination. The FDA is now asking consumers and veterinarians to help by providing any relevant information.

What Should I Do?

  • Keep on the lookout for signs of illness in your pets. The FDA says "signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination."
  • Contact your vet right away if you notice these or more severe symptoms
  • The FDA is asking pet owners to hold on to unused portions of the product in its original container for at least 60 days, in case they request samples for testing
  • Report any issues through the Safety Reporting Portal or your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator

Alternative Treats

Looking for pet treats that are sourced and made in the US?

  • Canidae and Bil-Jac are two companies that source ingredients and manufacture in the US.
  • Newman's Own fish and poultry products are produced domestically.

Read the Consumer Update from the FDA.

Jerky Treats Linked to 600 Pet Deaths and Ongoing Investigation Back on the Market

A mysterious set of illnesses linked to jerky treats, many manufactured in China, have caused nearly 600 pet deaths since 2007. Two of the treats implicated in the illnesses and recalled in January 2013, Wagginโ€™ Train jerky treats for dogs and Miloโ€™s Kitchen Chicken Jerky Strips and Chicken Grillers Recipe Treats for dogs, are coming back on the market.What exactly caused the illnesses, which have resulted in pancreatitis, kidney failure, a rare kidney disorder called Fanconi syndrome, and gastrointestinal bleeding, remains a troubling mystery for the FDA, pet parents, and pet treat manufacturers.

Photo by waggintrainbrand.com
Photo by waggintrainbrand.com

Manufacturers Promise New Recipes, Processes

Nestle Purina Pet Care will reintroduce Wagginโ€™ Train treats for dogs in February, including products made from a single supplier in China and products sourced entirely in the US.โ€œWeโ€™ve worked hard to put in place the highest quality controls in the dog treat industry,โ€ Wagginโ€™ Train President Nina Leigh said.Del Monte Foods Corp. plans to start offering Miloโ€™s Kitchen Chicken Jerky Strips and Chicken Grillers Recipe treats in March, using US-sourced meat.The FDA currently doesn't have pre-market approval over such moves. It might someday soon, though.

The Trouble With Jerky Treats

The jerky treat-related deaths have stumped authorities for years and prompted the FDA to propose a milestone rule: the first-ever set of guidelines to protect pets before there's a recall. Under the proposed rule, pet food and treat manufacturers โ€” both domestic and overseas โ€” must develop procedures to prevent any foodborne illnesses. Manufacturing facilities would have to follow sanitation practices and a manufacturer that fails to meet the guidelines could find their shipments stopped by the FDA.

What Do You Think?

Will you be buying either of these treats for your pet? What assurances would you look for from the manufacturers? Share in the comments below.

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