By Dr. Becker
There's an ironic twist in the ongoing problems with pet food, pet food ingredients, and especially treats made in China.
Chinese pet owners who can afford to are arranging to import American-made pet food and treats to avoid tainted products made in China. This, while pet owners in the U.S. continue to wait – for nearly 5 years and counting -- for the FDA and retailers to ban potentially deadly China-made chicken jerky dog treats from store shelves.
At least a dozen pet food manufacturers in the U.S. currently export their products to Hong Kong to meet the demand of well-to-do Chinese pet owners who don't want to risk giving the family dog or cat food or treats made in their own country.
U.S. pet food companies have even been instructed not to translate their formula ingredients to Mandarin because it could make Chinese consumers suspicious of the real origin of the ingredients.
Chicken Jerky Pet Treat Update
According to media sources who are in contact with members of the U.S. congress, including MSNBC.com, the FDA has sent inspectors into plants in China that make chicken jerky pet treats. Their goal, one would hope, is to finally discover the ever-elusive link between the treats and hundreds of sick and dead dogs in the U.S. and other countries – a situation first identified in September 2007. It's not known how many inspectors are on the job in China or which pet food plants are being looked at.
A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich from Ohio says the congressman is "… expecting important new information soon."
I certainly hope that's the case.
Meanwhile, there is growing public pressure to recall suspect treats and pull them from store shelves. (If you're not familiar with the symptoms exhibited by pets who've fallen ill from chicken jerky treats, you can get more information here.)
However, U.S. pet food companies producing some of the treats linked to pet illnesses and deaths -- specifically Nestlé Purina PetCare (Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders) and Del Monte (Milo's Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats) -- along with stores that sell the treats (Petco, Petsmart, Walmart), continue to assert there is no direct connection between the treats and sick and dead pets.
Therefore, they will continue to manufacture and sell the treats. (What's the likelihood employees of these companies are still feeding their own pets the chicken jerky treats they produce and sell?)
Nestlé Purina and Walmart are, as of mid-April, involved in a class action lawsuit brought by an individual "on behalf of all consumers who purchased certain dog treats manufactured, marketed, distributed or sold by defendants."
Don't Count on "Made in the U.S.A." to Mean "This Product is Safe"
One of the biggest frustrations of pet owners trying to avoid poisoning their dog or cat, is that many pet treat package labels claim the product was made in the U.S., when the reality is one or more ingredients were imported from China.
The Chinese have a cultural preference for dark chicken meat, which means white meat is less expensive. On closer inspection of some chicken jerky treats "Made in the U.S.A.," the small print shows the chicken actually came from China.
Country of origin labeling laws require only that products be put together here to make the made-in-the-U.S.A. claim. As long as ingredients are cooked, mixed, or otherwise processed once they arrive in the U.S. from China or elsewhere, the food can be legally identified as being made here.
Some pet owners who have had dogs fall ill or die after eating chicken jerky treats, bought products with labels stating "Proudly manufactured by an American company."
Needless to say, this sort of marketing ploy is intended to instill confidence in consumers – in some cases with absolutely tragic results.
I wonder if those Chinese pet owners who are buying dog and cat food from U.S. companies realize "Made in the U.S.A." doesn't necessarily mean they are avoiding ingredients produced in their own country?
Just Say NO-NO-NO to All Store Bought Chicken Jerky Pet Treats
… unless you can confidently confirm the treats were not only "assembled" in the U.S., but the ingredients originated here as well.
Allow me to repeat the advice to pet owners I offered in a recent article:
- Please DO NOT BUY OR FEED chicken jerky treats, chicken tenders, chicken strips or chicken treats made in China to your pet – and this goes for any treat you aren't 100 percent sure originated entirely in this country. Buying pet food made in the U.S. won't remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe.
- You can play it even safer by making your own chicken jerky at home. Buy some boneless chicken breasts, clean them, and slice into long, thin strips – the thinner the better. Place the strips on a greased or non-stick cookie sheet and bake them for at least three hours at 180 degrees. The low temp dries the chicken out slowly and the strips wind up nice and chewy. Let the strips cool, and then store them in plastic bags or another airtight container. You can also freeze them.