The most recent numbers of pet death and illness linked to the jerky treats imported from China. Details of our phone conference meeting with the FDA. Nothing firm, but insight onto the jerky treat investigation, perhaps an end in sight, and possibly a future open door with FDA.
All in all, the conversation went very well. Dr. Bernadette Dunham was unable to join us in this meeting as scheduled (she was called away last minute to a meeting with the Commissioner of FDA), however Dr. Dan McChesney (FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine Director Office of Surveillance and Compliance) spoke to us at length. Friend and petsumer allies Mollie Morrissette (www.PoisonedPets.com) and Tony Corbo (www.FoodandWaterWatch.org) and myself were on the call for a little more than an hour with Dr. McChesney and Laura Bradbard (FDA CVM Director of Communications).
Below are highlights of our conversation.
The true stopping point for the FDA to take action is – the contaminant of the jerky treats imported from China has not been found. The FDA firmly believes “something is going on” with these treats, but it still comes back to no contaminant or scientific reason for the kidney failure/disease suffered by dogs and some cats has not been found (yet). The FDA has guidelines they must follow; they cannot force the hand of a manufacturer (importer in this case) to recall or pull a product without solid evidence of a contaminant.
From the FDA inspections of the manufacturing plants in China, the FDA learned one of the plants had falsified documents regarding the glycerin ingredient used in the jerky treats. We learned that these falsified documents were nothing of significant concern. The documents from the one plant showed the glycerin used in the treats was not food grade (which would have been a risk as non-food grade glycerin is linked to serious health issues). Upon further FDA investigation, including a visit to the glycerin plant in Malaysia, it was learned the suspect glycerin was food grade but was imported as non-food grade to save the manufacturer some money on import fees and taxes.
Even with falsified documents, there was little the FDA could do. Until the full implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) goes into effect, record keeping and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are not a requirement of any pet food/treat manufacturer (by the way, this applies to all pet food/treat manufacturers in the U.S. or abroad – currently, no pet food/treat manufacturer is required by law to keep good records or have established GMP). However Dr. McChesney did share that had this already been a requirement (record keeping and GMP), little would have changed. The only benefit to FDA in this case would have been the opportunity for comparison to other plants and past inspections. As it stands now – no U.S. pet food/treat manufacturer or Chinese pet food/treat manufacturer or manufacturer from any other country is required to establish proper record keeping and GMP. This is where we need a push from Congress to provide FDA with the ability to implement all of the legislation of the FSMA. We need the requirement of proper record keeping and GMP in pet foods/treats.
There has been no developments of FDA working with NASA to further investigate the possibility irradiation of the treats is the source of contamination. NASA turned out not to be the connection they needed. However, FDA is currently doing their own irradiation investigation. My understanding is the FDA is basically repeating the manufacturing process of jerky treats as it is done in China. Thus far they have made test jerky treats to determine a base line (foundation of what the treat looks like, tests as, prior to irradiation). Next – and I believe soon – they will irradiate the FDA made jerky treats, at various levels and test again (comparing to the foundation treats). They will hopefully learn exactly how irradiation alters the treats.
The next step they (FDA) will take in this testing process is of significant importance. The jerky treats from China are irradiated within the packaging. Testing/comparisons will be done to see if the packaging alters the treats through irradiation AND/OR if the desiccant within the package is causing contamination of treats (especially those treats closest to the desiccant package).
The FDA also shared that they considered doing a feeding trial with the jerky treats – but did not proceed with this step. Personally, I agree with FDA on NOT doing a feeding trial test of the treats. It makes no sense to put further animals in danger.
The FDA provided us with the following updated numbers of adverse event reports received related to the jerky treats…
From January 1, 2012 to December 17, 2012 (less than 12 months)
1,872 Reports have been received by FDA related to the jerky treats.
Within these 1,872 reports – a total of 2,245 dogs suffered a reaction, 6 cats suffered a reaction. 383 dogs died, 1 cat died.
Of significance, Dr. McChesney stated the FDA has received 112 diagnosed cases of Fanconi linked to the Chinese imported jerky treats. Dr. McChesney shared Fanconi is a difficult disease to diagnose, typically only found in rare instances in Basenji dogs. With such a high number of clinically confirmed Fanconi diagnosed dogs, Dr. McChesney shared this proves “something is going on” with these jerky treats.
The FDA was open to us having further meetings in the future and was open to Mollie and I participating as petsumer representatives in future meetings.
I did share with FDA that pet parents desperately want their own ‘face time’ with FDA regarding the jerky treat issue and other pet food/treat safety issues. Laura Bradbard suggested those interested to contact FDA Public Affairs office. It will be my choice that FDA establish several open meetings a year – perhaps even meetings online – that pet owners could participate in.
I have to say – and I would never have guessed the conversation would have went this way – all in all our meeting today left me with a better feeling about the FDA with respect to the jerky treat investigation. I feel Dr. McChesney addressed all of our questions openly and honestly. We might not have liked all of the answers, but nothing we asked was side-stepped. The conversation gave us more information which was certainly needed. My thanks to the FDA for giving us this opportunity to talk, and I hope we can continue on-going communication with them.
Personal Note: To anyone that would possibly consider feeding, selling, or importing these jerky treats from China – please consider this…
This year – 2012 – more than one dog per day has died related to these treats. I have to ask you, before you feed, sell, or import one more jerky treat from China – is one pet dying each day worth it? Is saving a few bucks buying or making a few bucks selling these treats worth one pet death per day? It’s not. Stop buying these treats – stop selling these treats.
To all of us that ‘get it’ – there’s what you can say next time you are at Walmart or Target or Petsmart or Petco (or all the other places selling these death treats) – ask that pet owner buying these treats this question…
Just this year – the FDA has received reports of one dog dying per day, six dogs suffering kidney disease per day directly related to these treats imported from China – are you willing to take that risk with your own dog?
Ask store managers and ask corporate offices of retail stores…
Just this year – the FDA has received reports of one dog dying per day, six dogs suffering kidney disease per day directly related to these treats imported from China – is your store going to continue to contribute to these death and illness statistics? Are you really that heartless?
Please, please, please – everyone – ask these questions each time you see someone buying or selling these treats. Send more emails directly to corporate offices of retail outlets. This is the most current numbers provided by FDA and it is so important.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
What’s in Your Pet’s Food?
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