jerky treats, mostly imported from China, are now linked to more than
1,000 deaths in dogs, more than 4,800 complaints about animal illness,
and, for the first time, sickness in three people who ate the products,
federal health officials said Friday.
But Food and Drug
Administration officials say they still can't identify a specific cause
for the reported illnesses or deaths, despite seven years
of testing and investigation.
“The agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not required
for a balanced diet and encourage them to consult with their
veterinarians, both prior to feeding treats and if they notice symptoms
in their pets,” FDA said in a statement.
The humans who consumed
the treats included two toddlers who ingested them accidentally and an
adult who may have been snacking on the questionable products, which
include chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, an FDA official
agency continues to caution pet owners that jerky treats are not
required for a balanced diet and encourage them to consult with their
of the children was diagnosed with a salmonella infection, which can be
spread by touching contaminated pet food and treats. The other child
developed gastrointestinal illness and fever that mirrored the symptoms
of dogs in the house that also ate the treats. The adult reported nausea
and headache, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.
The agency has received
about 1,800 new reports of illnesses and deaths since its last update in
October, some involving more than one pet. The numbers now include
5,600 dogs and 24 cats.
About 60 percent of the
cases involve symptoms of gastrointestinal trouble and liver disease, 30
percent involve kidney disease and about 10 percent involve other
complaints, including neurological and skin conditions, the FDA said.
About 15 percent of the kidney or urinary cases also tested positive for
Fanconi syndrome, a rare disease that has been associated with the
Agency officials also
said they were able to perform necropsies, or post-death examinations,
on 26 dogs submitted by veterinarians from across the country. In half
of those cases, the deaths did not appear to be associated with the
treats. Of the remaining 13 cases, an association with eating jerky
treats "could not be ruled out," FDA officials said.
The FDA plans to join
with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a study
similar to epidemiological traceback investigations used with people,
comparing foods eaten by sick dogs with foods eaten by pets that did not
Pet treats made by
national manufacturers Nestle Purina Pet Care and Del Monte Foods Corp.,
now known as Big Heart Pet Brands, were returned to store shelves
after a voluntary recall tied to the discovery of unapproved antibiotic
residue in some products last year. FDA officials said they had
received few reports of illness associated with those reformulated
products and no Fanconi syndrome cases.
In response to consumer
demand, Milo's Kitchen Chicken Grillers and other products are now made
in the U.S. with U.S.-sourced meat, said Chrissy Trampedach, Big Heart's
director of corporate communications.
Overall, the jerky treat illnesses and deaths have been associated with many different product brands, officials said.
In the new report, the
FDA said it had detected the antiviral drug amantadine in some Chinese
chicken jerky samples sold more than a year ago. Officials said they
don't believe the drug contributed to the animal illnesses or deaths.
However, the drug, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease and
influenza in humans, should not be present in jerky treats, officials
said. The FDA has warned Chinese and domestic suppliers that amantadine
is considered an adulterant, which could be grounds for banning the
treats for sale in the U.S.
The companies have
consistently said that the treats are safe to feed as directed and
they've emphasized that, despite extensive testing, no specific cause of
illness has been linked to the products.
quite sad when you see it dawn on the people that they're trying to
reward their best buddy there and then now they're the ones who have
been making them ill."
Pet owners and
veterinarians have criticized the FDA for not finding the source of the
contamination more quickly and for not issuing more far-reaching
recalls. They say they're sure that the products are dangerous, and that
the reported illnesses and deaths should be more than enough proof.
"Its really hard to
look at the number of cases that come in, correlate them with what
they're eating and then go away from that and say, no, it's not
related," said Brett Levitzke, a Brooklyn, New York, veterinarian who
has seen more than a dozen dogs since 2011 with Fanconi syndrome.
"It's quite sad when
you see it dawn on the people that they're trying to reward their best
buddy there and then now they're the ones who have been making them
ill," he told NBC News.