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Jerky Treats – One Dog Death per Day

Jerky Treats – One Dog Death per Day

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 ( and Tony Corbo ( 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,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author, Buyer Beware
Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

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  1. I had a friend at work feeding these to her dog. I told her about this website and all the pets dying and her response was “Mine like them and they seem fine.” I told her it’s always “fine” until one day, it isn’t.

    A week or so later, she had to take her dogs to the vet: they were sick and they didn’t know why. *sigh*

    • If anyone tells you “their” treats are safe because the company has a USA address, tell them to look for the very small print just above the UPS label, or at the very bottom of the back of the bag. Bet it says, “made in China”.

  2. Hi Susan:
    Thank you so much for your continued dedication to this cause. I was in Costco no long ago and had a discussion with a gentleman there buying jerky treats from China.

    I’ve called Costco and talked with them about it as well and their buyer doesn’t seem to feel that there’s a problem.

    Unfortunately, it’s all about the bottom line.


  3. On the whole it looks like progress is being made. They seem to be showing some creativity in trying to come up with scenarios for the problems. Is anyone recording brand and lot numbers for the treats causing the problems?

  4. so is the FDA NOT currently able through the FSMA to ban import of the treats? I had thought this was something they could do, but perhaps I was wrong – is there a part of the Act that has not been fully implemented?

    thanks for clearing this up – I know I’ll get questions about it.

  5. sorry – small flow up to above question – I meant ban imports based on CHinese facilities refusing to permit sampling to be taken…

  6. I do not see the importance of this meeting nor do I feel any better about your meeting with the FDA than I did 5 minutes ago. This information is nothing we did not know. We want answers, they need to stop with all the BS already. They continue to make excuses as to why they cannot recall or stop imports! They need to deal with the victim’s and not representatives of the victim’s. We do not need representation, we need support, we have a voice, we are our babies voice, we are the victim’s of imported chicken jerky. A victim’s story has very little impact being communicated through a representative, the impact comes from the victim’s themselves, what we have dealt with, what we are still dealing with.

    • Robin,
      Please don’t shoot the messenger. We tried – for everyone is all I can say. And I specifically told FDA that pet parents want to speak to them directly – was told the FDA Public Affairs office was where anyone interested could go.

    • Robin,

      I found your comment to be thoughtless and frankly, insulting. Consider for a moment, that Susan, more than anyone else in the U.S., has worked harder for pet food safety. She has been our most important asset in this fight. She is petsumer’s voice. You do need her, we all need her.

      The meeting with Dr. McChesney was, historically, a significant one. I found him to be open, honest, forthcoming, and most importantly, he and Dr. Dunham have expressed a desire to continue a dialog on a regular basis.

      In fact, we were told that we are welcome to contact them any time with any questions or comments. The FDA/CVM has never before granted access to representatives of pet food safety advocates before.

      We were given information on the background work the CVM is conducting on the CJT issue that has never before been made public (although it will be forthcoming).

      Dr. McChesney provided us with insight into the process and the difficulties they face. What you don’t understand is that unless a contaminant is found the law forbids the government from removing the products from the market. That is not an excuse, it is a reality.

      Dr. McChesney told us they are looking for something that has never before been seen in medicine. There is no protocol for dealing with a completely new and novel contaminant. He acknowledged that there is, unequivocally, a problem with the treats, but finding out why some dogs get sick and some do not, and what the cause of Fanconi syndrome is in dogs that have no genetic predisposition to it – is a mystery. One, that I believe, they are working to find.

      Susan and I have also been invited to speak with Michael Taylor and we are making a formal application to be made “official” pet food safety consumer advocates within the FDA. As consumer advocates we will attend regular, scheduled meetings and hopefully have meaningful dialog with those directly involved in the process of governing pet food.

      Dr. McChesney told us that there is a place for consumers to have a voice and that is, as Susan mentioned, through the Office of Public Affairs. The Public Affairs at the CVM is Tamara Ward: 301-796-7567

      I would encourage the victims of the treat poisonings to testify before Congress. If your goal is to have a voice, that, to me, would be the most powerful method of communicating with government. To tell your stories, hear your pain, share your agony and frustration with members of Congress. We know already that a number of members actively support CJT victims.

      You are right, we do not know your pain, but we all are victims of a pet product that contributed to the untimely death of a beloved fur baby, including myself. Despite not having a personal loss associated with the treats does not mean that we work any less, for us it is an accumulation of all unsafe pet food that motivates us. We are looking at the bigger picture: the CJTs are emblematic of a failure in the pet food industry as a whole and how can we prevent further tragedies from occurring.

      Robin, I don’t think you are aware of this, but Susan is a victim just as much as you are. In fact, the very reason for the beginning of her mission as a pet food safety advocate was prompted by the untimely death of her most beloved dog from ethoxyquin poisoning.

      Maybe you don’t know this, but it was the work of a pioneering consumer advocate, Harvey Wiley, in the 1880’s that led to the formation of the FDA:

      “On June 30, 1906, Wiley’s efforts bore fruit when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Pure Food and Drugs Act, largely written by Wiley, according to the FDA. Wiley was appointed to oversee its administration. The Pure Food and Drugs act was replaced by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.”

      It is my sincere hope that we work together towards a common goal in a constructive, and hopefully, effective manner. The fragmentation of activists groups is the downfall of most campaigns.

      Together, we can make a difference. Alone we are but one voice.

  7. Hi Susan, Thank you for continuing the good work in this area. We had dogs here in Australia affected by Chinese jerky treats about 4 years ago aroundt the same time that the irradiated imported pet kibble was affecting cats. As an owner of one of the cats paralysed by the irradiated cat kibble, I am extremely interested in the outcome of the investigations around irradiation of Chinese jerky treats. China is a huge irradiator of foods. It’s worth mentioning for everyone I think, that they could find no toxic byproducts in the irradiated cat kibble and no discernible chemical changes between it and the non-irradiated samples the manufacturer gave them. And once empirical scientists can’t see “something” they assume there is “nothing”. Well SOMETHING to food when it is irradiated, particularly dry food as we have seen with the cats here. We must press on with this and get them really working on the irradiation aspect. In my heart of hearts I just feel there’s a connection with the jerky treats.

    And to Robin, I understand your frustration, however it is often the case that established institutions will only communicate with agents or representatives of groups and not individuals, at least to start with, or they’d be overwhelmed keeping up. We are lucky to have people like Susan to represent pet owners and keep getting the word out and the communication channels open so that eventually we all get heard. She is our voice. And I think she does a damned fine job. Thank you Susan.


    • I appreciate your opinion Susan but I respectfully disagree with you. Are you a victim? If you are my heart goes out to you for I understand however, if you are not you cannot possibly know how any of us feel. The FDA has wasted enough time, 6 years and still going strong at doing nothing meaningful, they have sided with China, they have sided with all of the corporations importing this crap, they have ignored us long enough, enough deaths already! Our group just lost another precious soul last night due to the incompetence of the FDA. It is time they stood up to us the victim’s and hear our voices, hear our stories and not through a third party.

      • Actually I am a victim – a pet food killed my dog 20+ years ago – which is why I started doing this in the first place. Ethoxyquin is what killed my dog.
        But – I don’t believe one has to have experienced the death of a pet to want things to change. As well, I think many people out there write letters and sign petitions even though they haven’t experienced this first hand. They still want to help.

        • Being a victim yourself you can identify the difference between a victim and a supporter. As strong as a supporter can be for a cause they can never truly identify with the feelings of a victim. I too have been on both sides of this issue a supporter of victims from 2007, now a victim myself since 11/21/11, the feelings cannot compare, as much as I thought I could identify with any one of those victims, thought I could actually feel their heartache, I was proven wrong. A victim’s story no matter who it is told to, will never be seen or felt in the same light unless it is told by them. They need to hear from the families who just lost their dogs this week, 3 of them, because they choose not to utilize the tools that were given to them 2 years ago. They need to witness the horrific way these dogs are dying. They need to stop ignoring all of the victims, step up, and do what they were hired to do by us the taxpayers and stop jerking us all around.

          • I agree with you – FDA, AAFCO, and members of Congress all need to hear the personal stories of pet parents who have suffered at the hands of a pet food and or pet treat. I’ve been asking for this from all of them for years. And I shared that with Dr. McChesney in this meeting again.

            I understand you might not agree, but to me – after years of knocking on FDA’s, AAFCO’s, and Congress’s door – this meeting was a huge step forward to achieving that public meeting with pet owners and with pet food/treat advocates. And not just one meeting – but on-going meetings. Unfortunately, there is more than just jerky treats from China that is killing pets today – and has been killing pets for years, not given notice by regulatory authorities. My goal would be to give all of those pet parents a voice – let’s clean up a lot of things in pet food/treats. But it has to start somewhere – and I hope it has with this one meeting. We got our foot in the door and to me that was huge.

            Regardless whether a pet died from jerky treats or ethoxyquin or melamine or salmonella – that death shouldn’t happen. None of them. Until the whole process gets changed we can be certain more deaths will occur. It’s such a huge problem – there are no easy answers.

  8. My business, Good Dog! Cookies,started making K-9 Skinny Chicken, a dehydrated chicken breast(no hormones)treat for dogs in response to the horrible products coming out of China. So many customers will tell me what they buy is made in the US; therefore safe. I tell them to read the back of the bag. In very small print, usually above the UPC code, will be the words “made in China”.
    The big box stores will not pull these products. In fact, one company promotes their chicken treats on national TV.

  9. Small correction: The glycerin was USP grade, not food grade.

    And the type of desiccant of significant interest to the CVM are the iron desiccants. Dr. McChesney related that when iron is irradiated it creates an acid that could create similar health effects to the dogs that have consumed the treats. He said their next step is to replicate this action, scientifically. At this point it a theory, but one that I feel has great promise.

  10. Recently I caught a news blip one evening. It mentioned something about tainted chicken, I believe it was in China. I have tried to listen for a follow-up on the news but, have not heard anything.

    By chance did anyone else hear this on tv or radio this last week?

  11. Thank you for this huge step in making our pet food and treats safer. Keep up the good work.

  12. I bought a food dehydrator so I could start to make my own jerky for the dogs. I better get on it. Thanks for exposing this horrible violation on our pets. The rendering plants need to be exposed more, they are cooking up the shelter animals in these vats and selling the poor things to be our pet food. It is barbaric and reprehensible. How can so much evil and greed permeate our government. The shelters make more money by killing the animals than they do by adopting them, so they have no incentive to try to keep them alive and adopted. When will this corruption end? We need to file a class action law suit. Where are the good lawyers?

  13. Once again Susan, I want you to know how much I appreciate everyone who has been involved talking to the FDA, and has taken up the cause for better pet foods in general. We had a fur baby (cat) affected by melamine and I don’t wish that on anyone. The key here is to keep talking to people and spreading the word. I am amazed at how many people are totally clueless about this. Consumer pressure, albeit slow will eventually win if the movement is big enough and vocal enough. I show my support by posting your site updates on my facebook page, and talking to shoppers when I see them looking at dog treats in the stores. I have even talked to several store managers about pulling the treats off the shelves. At any “doggie” gatherings I attend I spread the word too. It’s a small thing but if we all stick together it can work. If no one will buy the affected pet foods then they will disappear off the shelves.

  14. jerky treats made in us only.

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