More Toxic Pet Treats Recalled: Why Pet Owners Must Remain Vigilant

Dog Treat

Story at-a-glance

  • A little over a month ago, the Dogswell company joined a growing list of U.S. pet food manufacturers in voluntarily recalling dog treats made in China that were found to contain traces of poultry antibiotics not approved for use in this country.
  • Based on testing done not by the FDA, but by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Dogswell pulled several brands from store shelves, including Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality and Vitakitty, all with a “best before” date of 1.28.2015 or any earlier date.
  • Dogswell follows Nestle Purina, Del Monte, Hartz Mountain, Publix Stores and IMS Pet Industries in recalling jerky-type dog treats due to antibiotic contamination. The company insists there is no evidence to suggest unapproved antibiotic residue poses a health risk to humans or pets.
  • Dogswell admits some of their products come from China, but expresses confidence that Chinese producers are honoring the same “stringent quality standards” as U.S. manufacturers. This assertion rings hollow in light of the fact that Dogswell implemented procedures back in January to begin testing their products for unapproved antibiotic residue.
  • Meanwhile, the FDA continues to maintain the antibiotic residue issue is unrelated to the imported jerky treat contamination issue that has sickened thousands of U.S. dogs and killed hundreds. We strongly encourage you to remain vigilant about the quality and safety of the treats you offer your four-legged companion.

By Dr. Becker

During the last week of July, the Dogswell pet food company voluntarily recalled several chicken breast and duck breast jerky dog treats due to contamination with residue from an antibiotic not approved for use in the U.S. Sound familiar?

Dogswell Joins Nestle Purina, Del Monte, Hartz Mountain, Publix Stores and IMS Pet Industries in Recalling Pet Treats Due to Antibiotic Contamination

The Dogswell brands pulled from store shelves include Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality and Vitakitty, all with a "best before" date of January 28, 2015 or any earlier date.

From the Dogswell website:

"During routine testing of our products, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM) discovered that a sample of our Dogswell Happy Hips Chicken Breast Jerky contained trace amounts of an antibiotic residue that has not been approved for use in the United States.:"

"It is important to note that this antibiotic is accepted for use in other countries (including the European Union), and there is no evidence that products containing trace amounts of this antibiotic pose a health risk for pets or humans."

"Since we were notified by the NYSDAM the week of July 22nd, we have made the decision to voluntarily withdraw Chicken Breast and Duck Breast jerky under the Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality, and Vitakitty brands that are labeled with a 'Best Before' date of January 28th, 2015 or any earlier date. The vast majority of these products were distributed before March 1st of this year. No other products are affected."

Note that Dogswell is quick to point out the antibiotic found in their product, while not approved for use in the U.S., is approved in other countries, including the European Union. What they don't mention is the drug is also approved for use in China, which is where Dogswell and many other U.S. pet treat manufacturers source their products and/or raw ingredients.

Treat producers and the FDA want pet owners to believe antibiotic residue poses no health risk, and there's no relationship between THIS contamination issue and the one that has sickened and killed so many pets since 2007 – despite the fact that the same pet treat brands are involved in both issues.

Treat Producers Insist Antibiotic Residue Poses No Health Risk. FDA Believes It Is 'Highly Unlikely' Antibiotic Contamination Is Related to Illness and Death in Pets Fed Suspect Pet Treats.

If you read my February 1st article or one of any number of other news sources on the subject of toxic jerky pet treats from China, you know that certain brands of these treats sold in the U.S. are suspected of causing sickness in thousands of dogs, and death in hundreds more since 2007.

And you know that the FDA has been utterly ineffective in locating the source of the problem. Fortunately, in January, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) was able to detect residual amounts of unapproved poultry antibiotics in several lots of jerky treat brands – the very same brands that are suspected in the ongoing issue that began in 2007.

Not surprisingly, the pet food manufacturers (including Dogswell) who have voluntarily recalled jerky treat products for antibiotic contamination continue to insist there is no evidence that trace amounts of these antibiotics pose a health risk for pets or humans.

And of course the FDA sings a similar tune in their most recent (January 9) CVM update on jerky treats:

"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."

Note the FDA doesn't wish to connect the antibiotic residue issue with the issue of five years of reported illnesses and deaths in pets fed chicken jerky treats made in China, despite the fact that the same brands were implicated in both issues and were recalled by the manufacturers.

When Marketing Rhetoric Defies Logic

From Dogswell FAQs:

"Question: Where are your products manufactured?"

"Answer: Most Dogswell products are manufactured in the US. Some of our treats are manufactured in China, but we hold these facilities to the same stringent quality standards we maintain at our US facilities. Dogswell sources its ingredients based upon where we find top quality ingredients and a high quality supplier whose facilities and practices meet our safety testing standards."

Dogswell believes they hold the Chinese manufacturing facilities they do business with to a certain quality standard. I believe they are overconfident.

What does the detection of residue from illegal antibiotics in pet treats say about Dogswell's ability to hold their Chinese production partners to the same quality standards it maintains at U.S. facilities?

Secondly, according to dvm360, Dogswell began implementing new procedures in January to test for unapproved antibiotics in their products. Why the need to do that, if the company is sure their Chinese suppliers are following "stringent quality standards?" If Dogswell is really using "top quality ingredients" provided by "high-quality suppliers," why the need to implement procedures to check for residue from antibiotics that aren't even approved for use in this country? (And while I'm at it, why did it take until July for the voluntary recall, if the company implemented its own antibiotic testing procedures back in January?)

Third, when the FDA visited Chinese producers back in April to investigate the toxic pet treat situation, it was a colossal waste of time. The agency was stonewalled by Chinese government officials. It leaves one to wonder how effective U.S. companies like Dogswell are at providing oversight at Chinese manufacturing facilities.

Here's another revealing observation from The Bark about Dogswell's marketing claims:

"Today, we received notice that Dogswell 'voluntarily' withdrew select jerky treats from the market. This is rather ironic because just a couple days ago we visited the Dogswell's booth at Superzoo, a huge pet trade show in Las Vegas, and asked them about their new marketing campaign 'Live Free.' "

"When asked what that means, a salesperson told us that not only does it refer to their ingredients (i.e. the chickens are supposedly raised cage-free, even though they source the meat from China!), but also that their products are free of corn, soy and fillers, etc. Plus, it means dogs can live free of harmful, unnatural ingredients! Oh my. Obviously this "voluntary" (a misnomer if there ever was one) withdrawal belies that assertion."

Pet Owners MUST Remain Vigilant.

In case it appears I have a vendetta against Dogswell, I don't. They just happen to be the most recent pet treat producer to be busted for tainted products who has responded in a manner that is less than reassuring.

The good news: They did a voluntary recall. The bad news: They suspected antibiotic residue problems back in January, apparently, but waited to be prodded by NYSDAM in July to pull products from store shelves. Further, their marketing claims don't appear to reflect reality when it comes to the quality of ingredients that go into their products.

It's painfully obvious neither the FDA nor U.S. pet food companies are invested in doing everything possible to insure the safety of imported pet foods and treats. That's why it must remain the job of pet owners to stay on top of recalls, and to stay away from products and ingredients made outside the U.S. An even more careful approach is to make your own treats at home.


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