December 01, 2013

 

 FDA asks veterinarians to help investigate jerky treats

Posted Nov. 20, 2013 
The Food and Drug Administration is asking veterinarians for help with the agency’s investigation into the cause of pet illnesses and deaths associated with jerky treats from China.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” said Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.

On Oct. 22, the CVM released an update on its investigation, available here.  The update includes a description of the extent of the agency’s testing and current findings as well as a “Dear Veterinarian” letter and a fact sheet for pet owners.

Chicken jerky treat
 
The letter asks veterinarians to post or distribute the fact sheet, to report cases of illness related to jerky treats, and to provide samples for diagnostic testing. The fact sheet lists steps that pet owners can take to prevent or detect illness related to the treats.

From early 2007 through late 2013, the FDA received more than 3,000 complaints of illness related to consumption of chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all imported from China. The reports involve more than 3,600 dogs along with 10 cats and include more than 580 deaths.

The FDA continues to inform pet owners that jerky treats are not required for a balanced diet. The FDA encourages pet owners to consult with their veterinarian prior to feeding treats and also if they notice signs of illness.

The rate of complaints associated with jerky treats dropped sharply when several well-known brands were removed from the market in January 2013 in response to a study conducted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Marketing that detected low concentrations of antibiotic residues in those products. The FDA believes that the decrease in complaints is linked to the decrease in the availability of jerky treats rather than the antibiotics associated with the removed treats. Nevertheless, the FDA is evaluating the potential for low concentrations of the antibiotics to cause illness in dogs over time.

The FDA and its partners continue to identify cases of illness associated with jerky treats and to test animal tissue and product samples. The agency also continues to work with the manufacturers and distributors of the treats and China’s Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine to investigate potential sources of contamination or causes of illness.