Treat or Threat? Chicken Jerky Made in China Linked to U.S. Dog Deaths

Is the FDA doing enough to investigate mysterious 'dog treat' deaths?

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Treat or Threat? Chicken Jerky Made in China Linked to U.S. Dog Deaths
This treat, and others like it made in China, are making dogs...sick as a dog. (Photo: Waggin' Train)

Fourteen-year-old family dog Ginger developed kidney failure. Bella, a two-year-old pug, spent one week in agony before she too succumbed to kidney failure. These two pooches have become the faces of a mysterious epidemic of 600 reported canine deaths that have left pet owners both bereft and angry.

MSNBC reports that the culprit may be various brands of chicken jerky made in China. Possible sources of contamination include Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch jerky treats or tenders, both produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co. and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats, made by the Del Monte Corp.

“No specific products have been recalled because a definitive cause has not been determined,” FDA officials said in a statement.

FDA officials have, however, cautioned pet owners about jerky treats three separate times since 2007.

Robin Pierre of Pine Bush, New York, believes that Waggin’ Train chicken jerky treats killed her previously healthy two-year-old dog, Bella. Since her doggie’s death, Pierre has cofounded Animal Parents Against Pet Treats Made in China.

“At the slightest doubt, these products should have been recalled,” said Pierre, “especially knowing there was a link or at the very least a caution/warning label put on the packaging warning the consumers.” 

Like Pierre, Susan Rhodes has launched a petition demanding that the FDA recall the “treats.” Rhodes lost her dog, Ginger, who experienced kidney failure after eating the chicken jerky snacks.

She was stunned to find that consumer complaints alone can’t force the FDA to recall potentially tainted products. “That is just unreal. I am not happy with that,” Rhodes said. “I will continue to press the FDA on this issue because Ohio consumers shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their pet’s food.”

Last year the agency recorded 70 reports of illnesses linked to the China-made treats. Since then, 530 additional complaints have been filed.

FDA scientists have been analyzing the treats for traces of dangerous toxins including heavy metals and diethylene glycol, which is used in plastics and resins.

Keith Schopp, director of communications for Nestle Purina, notes that nothing conclusive has come from the research, and suggests that other causes could be behind the wave of canine deaths.

“Our chicken jerky treats are safe to feed as directed,” said Schopp. “The safety of our products—and the pets who consume them—are our top priorities.c

Schopp also asserts that his company has a comprehensive food safety program in its Chinese plants.

Robin Pierre isn’t buying it. 

“Waggin’ Train has hid behind the technicality that the FDA cannot find the link,’ said Pierre. “And the FDA has let them.”