Following an increase in pet treats from China leading to animal deaths and illnesses, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their Center of Veterinary Medicine to take quick action to protect consumers and pet owners.
Thank you Senator for stepping up on behalf of all family members, including us – human foods have the same issue. When it comes to the truth on imported food products, particularly from China, U.S. officials typically walk on eggshells.
At a news conference on February 6 in Cleveland, Brown was joined by Kevin Thaxton, whose 10 year-old pug, Chancey, passed away unexpectedly after eating chicken jerky pet treats. But Thaxton didn’t know why his dog died at that time and fed the same jerky treats to their new puppy who nearly died as a result.
Here are my personal comments/questions: The FDA did issue a waning late last year about the jerky treats. But are these warnings coming out quickly enough and are they as widely dispersed to the public as is necessary for the message to trickle to most pet owners? Why are there so many warnings in the first place? Should there be more agressive product recalls (as opposed to general warnings leading to voluntary recalls)?
“One of my most important jobs as Senator is fulfilling constituent services—from helping Ohioans cut red tape to assisting with government resources. Candace Thaxton, Kevin’s wife, wrote me a letter describing how their pug, Chancey, died as a result of kidney failure after eating chicken jerky treats that were made in China,” said Brown. “Unfortunately, their story is becoming too familiar—increasing amounts of tainted pet treats imported from China leading to deaths and illnesses in our nation’s pets. We’ve seen the same story play out with the food we eat—where too often we simply don’t know where ingredients come from.
“It’s critical that FDA also take swift action to protect consumers and pets from these tainted foods.Today, I’m calling on the FDA to step up its investigation of the importation of pet food—especially from China, where the possibility of food contamination is high,” Brown added.
Brown sent a letter to Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, urging the FDA to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet treats and ensure that they are pulled from store shelves. Brown asked the FDA to explain its current procedures for notifying consumers and retailers of pet food safety breaches.
While more than half of all Americans have a pet, you don’t need to be a pet owner to have serious concerns – since the same issues exists for food eaten by people.
Even if the product says “made in the U.S.A.,” it doesn’t mean that some the ingredients in that product weren’t imported from China or any other nation. Don’t American consumers have at the very least the right to know where all the ingredients in a product are from, and then make their own choices as consumers ?
For many products there would be no choice. It’s astounding (and in my view arguably scary) how much we currently import from elsewhere, and continue to import from China, in particular.
Here is the Senator’s letter to the FDA:
The Honorable Margaret H. Hamburg, M.D.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
It has come to my attention that certain pet treats may be unfit for pets to consume. Some pet owners in my home state of Ohio have reported that certain chicken jerky treats, particularly those made in China, have caused their dogs to suffer from symptoms such as decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, renal failure, and in some cases, death.
I understand that the FDA is examining complaints from consumers and veterinarians and is working to determine the contaminant in these treats. To date, the FDA has not identified a contaminant and therefore they remain on the shelves of grocery markets and pet stores across the country. The concern over pet food contamination is not without basis. In recent years there have been sizable recalls of foreign-made pet food products due to contaminants including salmonella and melamine.
I urge you to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet foods, alert customers of the dangers of these products, and make sure the products found harmful are pulled from the retail market.
Additionally, in your response, please explain the FDA’s current procedure for notifying consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of pending investigations into possible pet food safety breaches. Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA’s website? How are retailers and manufacturers notified of potential concerns and what action is required on behalf of each party in response?
Thank you for all your efforts to protect public health and the safety of our nation’s pets. I look forward to your swift actions and response.