FDA Finally Proposing Pet Food Safety Rules Following Mounting Pet Illnesses, Deaths

pet_food_safety_rulesThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing rules that would make the food that we feed our pets and the feed used in farms safer, following massive pet illnesses and deaths tied to many brands of jerky treats. The treats appear to originate in China.

After six years of reports of illnesses and deaths, the agency remains unable to identify the source of the potentially tainted pet jerky treats, which have been tied to more than 3,600 pet illnesses and nearly 600 deaths since 2007. Worse, reports of illnesses and deaths continue to be received by the FDA, according to ABC News.

Shelly Burgess, FDA spokeswoman, told ABC News that the complaints began being received by the agency in January 2007. Reports dropped off in January 2013 when some products found to contain unapproved antibiotics were pulled from stores.

The proposed rules would mandate pet food and animal feed sellers in the United States—this would include importers of these products—to follow specific sanitation practices, according to the Associated Press (AP). These sellers would also be required to create and follow a detailed food safety plan meant to prevent food contamination. Implementation of these rules would also help minimize human illness as pet food contamination can transfer to those humans who are handling contaminated pet and animal food, the AP pointed out.

It is difficult to determine, in terms of monetary costs, the devastation and loss associated with a beloved pet who has been seriously sickened or died, but that shouldn’t dissuade pet owners. Lawsuits are mounting, and continue to mount, and involve recovery of a related costs, including burial and cremation expenses; veterinary bills—some people have reported vet bills of many thousands of dollars; costs related to the loss of a purebred pet; and, of course, the cost of the tainted products.

In some cases, class actions lawsuits have been filed; some filings have sought punitive damages for items such as common law fraud, unjust enrichment, negligence, product liability, unfair trade, breach of warranty, failure to warn, and defective manufacture or design, to name some. Cases have named stores and manufacturers; some actions have sought compensation for human illness tied to the tainted pet treats.

“Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China,” the FDA stated on its website. “Investigators have tested more than 1,200 samples but haven’t uncovered what could be causing the illnesses,” the agency added, according to ABC News. The website also indicates that, “Pet owners should be aware that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products, so packages that do not state on the label that they are made in another country may still contain ingredients sourced from China or other countries that export to the U.S.”

The treats are described as jerky tenders or strips, which are made with chicken, duck, sweet potato, and dried fruit, and combinations of these ingredients. Dozens of brands have been implicated in the widespread catastrophe; however, because a common contamination source has not been identified a recall has not been issued, according to ABC News.

An ABC News analysis of the most recent three months of complaints received by the FDA (July 2013 – September 2013), revealed that 1,200 complaints have been received; 140 in the three-month time frame, alone. Recent complaints are consistent with earlier complaints and the top named manufacturers and products are:

  • Waggin’ Train Jerky Treats by Nestle Purina.
  • Canyon Creek Ranch Jerky Treats by Purina
  • Dogswell Happy Hips Dog Jerky
  • Vitalife Duck & Sweet Potato Recipe Twists and Vitalife Chicken Treats
  • Milo’s Kitchen Home-Style Dog Treats made by Del Monte Corp., which were pulled in January for containing unapproved antibiotics.

The FDA says that symptoms that might occur hours or days following ingestion of a contaminated jerky treat include: Decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption, and/or increased urination. Severe cases may be diagnosed as pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure, or the resemblance to the rare kidney-related illness called Fanconi syndrome, according to ABC News.

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