Nine years after launching an investigation into thousands of reports of pets that became sick or died after eating meat jerky treats, the FDA is still unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem. The only thing the agency can say for sure is that reports of treat-related illnesses are on the decline: The FDA received just 200 reports between September 2014 and the end of 2015, versus 270 cases between May and September 2014, according to a statement.
Since the FDA launched its investigation in 2007, it has received 5,200 complaints of pet illnesses associated with chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, the agency says. More than 1,140 dogs have died after eating the treats, most of which were imported from China. The FDA added duck treats to its investigation late in the game because it detected antimicrobial and antiviral residues in one imported product, according to the statement. It also updated an existing import alert to include poultry-based jerky treats.
“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky pet treats are not required for a balanced diet, and encourage them to consult with their veterinarians if they notice symptoms in their pets,” including decreased appetite and increased water consumption, the statement says.
The mounting reports of problems with imported pet treats prompted major retailers such as Petco to remove all dog and cat treats from China from their shelves. But even after that, the FDA continued to receive disturbing reports. Last year, an outbreak of a rare kidney disease in dogs called Fanconi was traced to chicken jerky that purportedly was made without any ingredients sourced from China. That prompted the USDA to launch an investigation of its own into jerky labeled as “Made in the USA.”
Meanwhile, some critics of the pet food industry are blasting regulators for not doing enough to protect pets. One blogger points out that the FDA could have recalled all jerky treats made in China but declined to do so, according to Pet Product News. She implored the FDA to at least issue a consumer warning.