By Dr. Becker
In a truly spectacular coincidence, the very same brands of chicken jerky treats suspected of causing sickness and death in hundreds of dogs since 2007 have now been identified as being possibly contaminated with “unapproved” antibiotics. (Apparently the antibiotics are approved for use in China, where the treats are made, and in other countries, but not in the U.S.)
According to NBC News, right after the first of the year, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) informed the FDA it had found trace amounts of residual poultry antibiotics in several lots of Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats, as well as Milo’s Kitchen Chicken Jerky and Chicken Grillers home-style dog treats.
Treats Have Been Voluntarily Recalled
Fortunately for U.S. pet owners and potential future pet victims, it seems the suggestion of antibiotic contamination was enough to prompt Nestle Purina PetCare (makers of Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats) and the Del Monte Corp. (makers of Milo’s Kitchen products) to voluntarily pull their chicken jerky products from store shelves across the country.
The New York agriculture agency discovered very low levels of four drugs not approved for use in U.S. poultry, and one antibiotic that is approved for use, but for which quantities are strictly limited. The antibiotics found were sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin and sulfaquinoxaline.
The agency used new, highly sensitive technology to detect the presence of the antibiotics. The tests on the jerky treats were conducted in response to “growing consumer concerns.”
Whatever the reason, I’m extremely thankful NYSDAM took it upon themselves to run the tests. And while discovering antibiotic residue in food products is never “good news,” I’m grateful, in this case, something was found in those treats that caused them to be pulled off the market.
Treat Manufacturers and FDA Make Predictable Public Response
Needless to say, a spokesman for Nestle Purina says the issue with the antibiotics is in no way related to the issue with these very same chicken jerky treats that have allegedly sickened over 2,200 pets and killed well over 300.
The FDA also weighed in. From the agency’s January 9 CVM update:
Based on the FDA’s review of the NYSDAM results, there is no evidence that raises health concerns, and these results are highly unlikely to be related to the reports of illnesses FDA has received related to jerky pet treats. FDA commends Del Monte and Nestle-Purina for withdrawing these products from the market in response to this product quality issue. FDA also welcomes additional information about NYSDAM’s testing methodology, which is different and reportedly more sensitive than currently validated and approved regulatory methods.
As those of you who have been following this fiasco are aware, the FDA has conducted its own “extensive” testing and has to date been unable to find anything in the chicken jerky treats that would cause pet illness or death. Consequently, the agency maintains it is unable to take action to get the treats recalled, or even to effectively warn consumers of the potential for harm to their pets.
At Least for Now, Suspect Treats Are Off Store Shelves
It’s a small victory, but one that brings a sigh of relief. Tragically, for those pet owners who lost beloved companions, the recall does not help.
According to NBC news, a woman from New York whose 2 year-old pug died suddenly in 2011 after eating Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats, said in a statement:
"How many lives could have been saved if, six years ago, when there was first doubt that the safety of our companions was compromised, the FDA and all manufacturers of imported chicken jerky had issued a precautionary recall until the toxin was found? How much pain and suffering could have been avoided if only they had met their moral obligation six years ago and did the job the taxpayers pay them to do?"