Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Jerky Treat Pet Deaths

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Jerky Treat Pet DeathsA class action lawsuit has been filed over jerky treat pet deaths. The chicken jerky treats, which are manufactured in China, have been blamed for nearly 1,000 pet illnesses and a number of pet deaths since November, according to prior U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) information. Now, dog owners in eight states have come together in a class action lawsuit against Nestle Purina—which makes two of the treats—after their pets were sickened or died following consumption of the Chinese-made jerky, said msnbc.com. Defendants also involve some of the large, mega-stores that sell the products.

Officials at the FDA refuse to make public results of the agency’s inspections of the Chinese plants.  “I don’t have any new information,” FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward said in an email to msnbc.com. Many hoped inspections would help reveal what toxins might have caused problems that included nausea, vomiting, kidney failure, and death in the pets. A July 5th letter issued by FDA officials denied an msnbc.com public records request for the results of the agency’s February inspections of the Chinese plants. The FDA said releasing the information was a violation of rules that protect trade secrets and confidential commercial information; release could impact enforcement proceedings.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court and expands on an April complaint made by Dennis Adkins, who said his 9-year-old Pomeranian, Cleo, died this March after consuming Nestle Purina Pet Care Co.’s Waggin’ Train “Yam Good.” The class action lawsuit now includes six other pet owners, nationwide, who are suing Nestle Purina and adds Wal-Mart, Target, and Costco, said msnbc.com. The lawsuit also seeks to join with a lawsuit filed in federal court in June by a Connecticut family that blame the deaths of their two Boston terriers, Max and Toby, on chicken jerky treats. “Toby was falling over and crying out in pain and we would give him another treat because we thought we were doing something nice for him because he was hurting,” Philip Mawaka, told msnbc.com.

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. “We can say that Waggin’ Train products continue to be safe to feed as directed.” Three brands of treats were among those involved in complaints to the FDA by pet owners and veterinarians said msnbc.com, which obtained FDA adverse event records. 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, said msnbc.com.

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.

Dog owners expressed frustration over a lack of a recall in the face of three federal warnings since 2007 and many reports to the FDA concerning serious pet illnesses and deaths, said msnbc.com. The group also cite violation of implied warranties of safety and healthfulness of products, and commerce rules governing sale of sound merchandise. “Just because they haven’t found something doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Barbara Pierpont, told msnbc.com. Her 7-year-old rescue dog, Honey, died of kidney failure this April, three weeks after she began giving her Waggin’ Train jerky tenders bought at Sam’s Club (a Wal-Mart subsidiary). The jerky treats were the only change in Honey’s diet, said Pierpont. In addition to the other pet owners named in the class action, even more are coming forward and more than 15,000 people have signed a petition calling for a recall and increased FDA work to find the problem. As we’ve written, although the FDA has conducted a number of tests, its scientists have not been able to identify
any toxin that could be causing the animal illnesses and deaths, said FDA officials.

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. For example, 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, that were 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.

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