As we wrote earlier this month, there appears to be a connection between kidney failure in dogs and consumption of chicken jerky dog treats made in China. The problem has been reported in Australia, where one brand of treats already has been recalled by The Kramar Pet Company as a precaution. The Kramar treats had been manufactured in China.
The US investigation into this mysterious kidney ailment has been in progress for more than a year. FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a warning to consumers in 2007, and repeated the advisory earlier this month – shortly after the Australian recall was announced.
FDA posted a Consumer Update on its website on December 24th, entitled Caution to Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products. This update summarized the information contained in the agency's earlier 2007 and 2008 warnings, but provided no new information. Our curiosity was piqued, and we e-mailed the Center for Veterinary Medicine to ask some direct questions on the status and progress of the FDA investigation.
Earlier today, we received the following statement from FDA spokeswoman, Laura Alvey:
"FDA is actively investigating the matter and conducting analysis for multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants. We have tested numerous samples of chicken jerky products for possible contaminants including melamine.The complaints received have been on various chicken jerky products but to date we have not detected any contaminants and therefore have not issued a recall or implicated any products. We are continuing to test and will notify the public if we find evidence of any contaminants."
What should we conclude from this statement?
- The problem is not linked to a single manufacturer or importer of chicken jerky dog treats.
- The problem is chronic and long-standing – not of short duration.
- The contaminant still has not been identified, but is probably NOT melamine.
- FDA is taking this problem seriously, and has not put it on the back-burner.
As for any possible recalls, FDA's hands are tied – understandably so. Before requesting a recall, the agency must have evidence that links a specific product and/or contaminant to the problem. Until FDA is able to pinpoint the source of the problem, it can do no more than issue generalized warnings to consumers – at it has done twice this month.
Until this mystery is solved, consumers can take certain actions to protect their dogs:
- Pay attention to the country of origin when purchasing dog treats.
- Only offer treats in very small quantities, and not as a substitute for a meal.
- Watch closely for any unusual behavior or symptoms.
- Report any adverse reactions to pet foods or treats to FDA.
We'll continue to watch for, and report, any new developments