FDA Publishes New Q&A on Chicken Jerky Treat Situation

Chicken Jerky Treat

Story at-a-glance -

  • The FDA updated its chicken jerky pet treat product warning in mid-July, and published a question-and-answer page for consumers in mid-August.
  • There is nothing new or enlightening in the FDA’s most recent update, unless you weren’t aware consumer complaints now involve not only chicken jerky pet treats, but also duck and sweet potato treats.
  • The FDA still has not determined what is causing the problem with pet treats that have sickened and/or killed nearly 2,000 pets in the U.S. so far. Until they do, they will not advise manufacturers or retailers of these products to stop selling them.
  • Please know that if you choose to feed your pet processed treats with imported or potentially imported ingredients, your dog or cat could be at risk for serious illness. Our advice to limit your risk is to buy only pet food and treats sourced and produced entirely in the U.S., or make pet food and treats at home using ingredients you trust.

By Dr. Becker

In underwhelming acknowledgement of the ongoing problem with toxic chicken jerky dog treats (also called tenders or strips) from China, the FDA recently updated its November 2011 warning to consumers.

The agency “… continues to urge pet owners to use caution with regard to jerky pet treat products.”

The FDA’s Updated Warning

There’s nothing really new or helpful here, but from the updated consumer warning:

  • Complaints have now expanded from chicken jerky treats to other types, including duck and sweet potato jerky treats.
  • The FDA continues to maintain no specific products have been recalled because a definitive cause of the toxicity has not been identified. (For the names of specific products noted in internal FDA documents and published by MSNBC.com, read here.)
  • In response to the question Why aren’t these products being taken off the market,” the FDA points out there is nothing preventing the companies that sell the stuff from doing their own voluntary recalls. The agency’s regulations don’t allow it to pull products from store shelves based on complaints alone: It is important to understand that unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take.”
  • As part of the ongoing (since 2007) investigation, the FDA and other diagnostic laboratories in the U.S. have tested for Salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine and related triazines) and screened for other chemicals and poisonous compounds.
  • Samples have also undergone DNA verification for the presence of poultry and have been analyzed for nutritional composition (fatty acids, crude fiber, glycerol, protein, ash and moisture), vitamin D excess and enterotoxins.

    Despite all this testing, a definitive cause for the illnesses and deaths of pets has not been determined.

  • The FDA stops short of advising consumers not to feed chicken jerky products to companion animals. Instead, it cautions consumers who choose to feed these products to watch their pets closely for symptoms including decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), increased water consumption, or increased urination.

You can visit Questions and Answers Regarding Jerky Pet Treats, updated August 15, 2012 to read the full FDA update.

My Customary Warning

Please know that if you choose to buy any pet treat made in China or containing ingredients imported from China, your pet may be at risk.

Chicken, duck and sweet potato processed treats all pose a potential threat. I recommend you play it very safe. Offer your dog or cat only pet food and treats with ingredients sourced and made entirely in the U.S. Buying pet food made in this country won't remove all risk of acquiring a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe.