China Won’t Let FDA Inspect Plant That Made Tainted Pet Treats

China refuses to allow the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to inspect a plant there that manufactured tainted pet treats being blamed for nearly 1,000 pet illnesses and a number of pet deaths since November.

A CBS13 investigation this May revealed that hundreds of dog owners and veterinarians were concerned about a chicken jerky-style dog treat that is imported from China. In fact, said CBS13, the agency knew about the deadly issues since 2007, sending investigators to Chinese plants for years. Now, FDA records reveal that Chinese officials are not cooperating with the investigation. China says it requires “having the samples analyzed in a Chinese laboratory” and is not allowing American regulators to bring any samples back to the United States for testing, said CBS13.

The FDA indicated that it found “concerns about the record keeping practices of several of the inspected firms,” said CBS13, citing the agency’s report. For its part, the Chinese government said it ceased exports from at least one factory that has been accused of falsifying documents associated with the ingredient glycerin.

As we’ve long said, imports from China have made headlines in recent years; this debacle is just another example of the many other such issues. In 2008, nearly 80% of all product recalls in the U.S. involved imports from China such as dog food; baby formula; toys with lead paint; and even pharmaceuticals, like heparin, found to be made with toxic materials and other counterfeit ingredients. In 2007, more than 100 North American pets died after consuming China-sourced melamine-tainted pet food.

The dangerous treats are still being sold and the agency has, since, expanded its probe from chicken jerky treats to include duck and sweet potato jerky, it said. Although manufacture of many chicken jerky treats is outsourced to Chinese factories, the products are sold under U.S. brand names, such as Petsmart’s Dentley’s brand. CBS13 found numerous brands of Chinese-made chicken jerky treats still being sold in stores; Petsmart told CBS13 it has no plans to pull Dentley’s or any other brand because the “FDA has not linked any cases of illness or death to chicken jerky treats.”

The FDA told CBS13 that it has received 530 complaints of dogs falling ill or dying from several Chinese brands of jerky treats since November 2011, when the agency issued a caution. The agency never indicated any brand names and has not announced a recall. “The FDA has done a fairly poor job in notifying the consumers,” Dr. Katie True, a Sacramento veterinarian, told CBS 13. “You cannot deny that there is some sort of link between eating the jerky treats and the disease that is occurring in dogs,” True noted.

An FDA official told CBS13 in a written statement that, “The FDA is actively investigating reports regarding chicken jerky and conducting analysis for multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants.” Adding that, “To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses nor has a contaminant been found.” Meanwhile, last month, we wrote that a class action lawsuit had been filed over jerky treat pet deaths linked to chicken jerky treats manufactured in China, according to prior FDA information. Now, dog owners in eight states have come together in a class action lawsuit Nestle Purina—which makes two of the treats—after their pets were sickened or died following consumption of the Chinese-made jerky. Defendants also involve some of the large, mega-stores that sell the products.

Still, FDA officials refuse to make public results of the agency’s inspections of the Chinese plants and, last month, refused to release information to saying that releasing the information was a violation of rules that protect trade secrets and confidential commercial information; release could impact enforcement proceedings.

The complaints involved Nestle Purina Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands and Del Monte Corp.’s Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats. Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats are produced and supplied by JOC Great Wall Corp. Ltd. of Nanjing, China. The now-expanded lawsuit claims to represent nearly every U.S. pet owners who purchased any dog treat product made or sold by Nestle Purina that contains chicken imported from China in the past four years, according to the court records. Nestle Purina disagrees. “We believe the claims made in the suit to be without merit and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves,” said Keith Schopp, a spokesman for Nestle Purina and Waggin’ Train.

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