Elected Officials Turn Up Heat on FDA's Handling of "Death Treats"

Pet Food

Story at-a-glance -

  • One of the only ways a pet owner might learn about potentially deadly dog or cat treats is to visit the FDA website and look for pet food-related advisories. That's one of the reasons why, after five years and over 2,000 reported incidents of illness and death, unwitting consumers are still offering potentially deadly treats to their pets.
  • Recently, political leaders have become increasingly vocal in demanding the FDA do more to protect the health and lives of pets.
  • Unfortunately, with potentially deadly jerky pet treats still readily available on store shelves, word of mouth is one of the few options available to spread the news. Pet owners should avoid all treats containing ingredients from China - and any treat they aren't sure is entirely safe to feed their dog or cat.

By Dr. Becker

Despite over 2,000 precious dogs that have been sickened or killed since 2007 after eating chicken jerky pet treats imported from China, the products in question are still on store shelves.

Unless a pet owner regularly checks the FDA website for product advisories, visits the handful of websites like this one that provide updates (such as they are) on this tragic situation, or finds out in some other random fashion about the problem, he or she may not even be aware of it.

How these potentially deadly products are still widely available for purchase in major mass merchandise and big box stores, warehouse clubs and other huge retail outlets – with absolutely no warning of any kind on packaging or store shelves – is difficult to comprehend.

Politicians Turning Up the Heat on the FDA

According to a variety of sources including PetfoodIndustry.com and NBCBayArea.com, a senator from California is spearheading a new initiative to reform the way consumers are notified when the FDA issues an advisory about a product.

The owner of four dogs, one who died and two others who became sick after eating Del Monte's Milo's Kitchen chicken jerky treats, asked California legislators to create a law mandating that any products under FDA advisory must have the official FDA warning posted on store shelves.

After being contacted by this pet owner, Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to the FDA asking why the agency hasn't issued a recall. Her letter reads, in part:

"I'm greatly concerned about the safety of these products, and while FDA has done well by urging consumers to use caution, I don't believe it is enough.

"Specifically, I fear that FDA's warnings have not reached consumers, who through no fault of their own end up purchasing these tainted treats.

"I urge you to continue dedicating the necessary resources to find the source of the contamination, take greater steps to alert customers of the dangers posed by them, and pull from the market any products that are found to cause them."

On the same day, Representative Jerry McNerney, also of California, sent his own letter to the FDA stating: "Until the FDA is able to determine what is causing these adverse reactions in pets, the agency should make additional efforts to inform consumers about the potential dangers of these products."

Rep. McNerney goes on to say: "There are many steps that the FDA can take to prevent harmful dog food products from reaching consumers, and I urge you to take immediate actions within your purview to enhance animal safety."

About a month after the Boxer and McNerney letters, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has been in contact with the FDA for several months on this issue, fired off a letter to the Inspector General calling for a review of the FDA's investigation of the "death treats":

"After five years, there have been well over 2000 potential incidents of illness or death of beloved pets. The lack of cooperation by manufacturers is glaring. The FDA has clear authority to act. Their actions have created the appearance of impeding Congressional oversight. Dog owners deserve to know why the FDA is refusing to put a stop to the accumulation of dog illnesses and deaths. It is stunning that the FDA continues to allow these products to be sold. I urge you to investigate the FDA's handling of tainted jerky treats."

It's Up to Us to Help Prevent More Illness and Death

No matter your political affiliation, I'm sure you're as thankful as I am to see additional pressure applied to the FDA -- and indirectly to manufacturers and retailers of the death treats, as Kucinich dubbed them – to take action to prevent more pets from getting sick or dying from tainted chicken jerky dog treats.

An advisory buried on the FDA website for five years is NOT sufficient warning about products that are tied to over 2,000 reported incidents of sick and dead pets.

Needless to say, please don't feed your precious dog or cat any treats you aren't absolutely sure are safe, and pass this information on to your family, friends and anyone you know who cares about animals. Word of mouth continues to be one of the few methods available for getting the news out to pet owners.