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Pet Vet: Some imported treats linked to pet illnesses

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Heed this warning: Never feed your pets chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky, tenders, strips, or nuggets made in China.

Even though the FDA hasn't placed a universal ban on Chinese-produced chicken jerky, they are still "not fit for man nor beast."

To be fair, the FDA has spent the last seven years testing these jerky treats with inconclusive results. They even sent a team to China in April 2012 to investigate allegations the treats were causing disease in pets. But the team wasn't allowed access to the production plants, so they didn't find any answers. I find this rather suspicious.

It's too bad this blatant lack of cooperation on the part of the Chinese producers didn't convince the FDA to issue a total recall on these jerky treats. Instead they continue to simply advise pet owners that feed jerky treats to monitor for signs of disease. This lack of action by the FDA permits these harmful products to remain available on American store shelves, and allows the number of disease cases to grow.

By their own statistics, FDA officials report these jerky strips have been linked to the deaths of more than 1,000 dogs and more than 5,000 complaints of illness in pets. Most cases involve dogs, but a few cats have fallen ill as well.

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The FDA claims it can't legitimately issue a recall without establishing a definitive reason for it. So far, the results of FDA testing have revealed low levels of antibiotics and the antiviral drug amantadine (used for Parkinson's disease). The FDA is not convinced these contaminants can cause the liver failure, gastrointestinal problems, and kidney disease seen with jerky treat-related illness.

Recently, three humans fell ill after eating Chinese-produced chicken jerky. One toddler suffered a salmonella infection. Another developed gastrointestinal illness and fever. The adult experienced nausea and severe headaches.

My guess is that the fear of lawsuits from human illness is what convinced both PetSmart and PetCo to finally discontinue sales of these products. However, some sources report that Chinese-produced chicken jerky will still be on their store shelves until early 2015.

Another recent development is the $6.5 million lawsuit against Nestle Purina Pet Care Co. and Waggin' Train, LLC, to compensate dog owners whose pets became sick after eating their Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek chicken jerky treats made in China.

Although Nestle Purina doesn't admit fault in this lawsuit, the company would still be required to make "enhanced quality assurance measures," testing, and labeling changes. The settlement proceedings are still in progress, and Nestle Purina and Waggin' Train continue to advertise that their treats are safe to feed as directed.

Regardless of the lawsuit results, the most important thing is to check product labels on pet treats for the phrase "Made in China." Keep in mind that the description "distributed by" does not tell you where the product was made. This can be misleading. Look closer.

Let me repeat myself: Never feed your pets any treats made in China.

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