FDA: Nearly 1,000 Pets Sickened by China-Made Dog Treats

The Food and Drug Administration has received hundreds of complaints from owners and vets over certain brands of China-made chicken jerky products.

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Suddenly, “sick as a dog” isn’t so colloquial.

According to updated records kept by the Food and Drug Administration, chicken jerky pet treats from China have sickened nearly 1,000 dogs in the U.S. in recent months.

The FDA has logged 900 reports of illnesses and deaths from vets and concerned pet owners since November, when it issued warnings about health problems associated with the products known variously as chicken jerky strips, treats and nuggets.

Recorded problems stemming from the treats range from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure and death. The complaints have contributed to mounting pressure on the FDA to address the issue.

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Despite repeated tests, however, FDA scientists have been unable to detect any toxin responsible for the animal illnesses, officials said. And no results of a review conducted at Chinese treat manufacturing plants  earlier this year are yet available, according to FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward.

China’s spotty record on food safety only complicates the issue: in recent years the country has dealt with numerous food scandals, involving toxic baby formula, tainted pork products, rice contaminated with heavy metals and the reuse of discarded cooking grease nauseatingly known as “gutter oil” .  In 2007, more than 100 pets in North America reportedly died after eating pet food whose China-sourced ingredients were tainted with the plastic melamine, prompting a massive recall. No wonder folks are quick to worry.

The three top brands of chicken jerky treats among those most recently cited in complaints included Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands, produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co., and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, produced by the Del Monte Corp. According to the msnbc.com report, Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch are both produced and supplied by JOC Great Wall Corp. Ltd. of Nanjing, China.

Both Nestle Purina and Del Monte brands have insisted their chicken jerky treats are sound and that any illnesses are unrelated to the products.  Officials from Milo’s Kitchen admitted paying at least one owner who complained about a sick dog $100 in exchange for a release of all liability, but it also said a veterinary evaluation revealed the dog’s symptoms “were not related to consuming Milo’s Kitchen chicken jerky treats,” according to spokesperson Joanna DiNizio.

FDA officials have said companies are free to recall the treats at any time, but regulations do not allow for products to be removed based on consumer complaints alone.

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