After years of reports that certain China-made pet treats were sickening and killing dogs, Petco has finally decided to pull the items in question from all of their stores nationwide.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has remained fairly quiet about the matter, urging consumers to visit their May 2014 news release concerning the investigations. May was the month in which Petco and its competitor PetSmart promised customers to eventually start banning the treats in question. As of this writing, PetSmart has yet to pull the China-made pet treats from their shelves in their entirety, saying that this should take place completely by March 2015. As such, this makes Petco the first national pet retailer to pull the treats.(1)
Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky (treats, tenders and strips), but others included sweet potato and duck, as well as treats in which chicken or duck jerky was wrapped around sweet potatoes, or yams, and dried fruits. The majority of these foods were imported from China.(2)
FDA in receipt of thousands of reports related to pet illnesses and China-made pet treats
The above-referenced FDA news release offers some alarming figures regarding pet illnesses that were reported by pet owners as linked to treats made in China. It notes the following:
Since 2007, FDA has become aware of an increasing number of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats. As of May 1, 2014, FDA has received approximately 4,800 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats (These include 1800 complaints received since FDA’s last update in October 2013). Most of the reports involve jerky products sourced from China. The majority of the complaints involve dogs, but cats also have been affected. The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people and include more than 1,000 canine deaths. There does not appear to be a geographic pattern to the case reports.(2)
The release goes on to say that the dogs affected ran the gamut when it came to size, age and breed; not one kind over another was reported to take ill or die from the treats. In the majority of the cases (about 60 percent) the reports were related to a pet’s gastrointestinal illness, and about 30 percent had to do with kidney or urinary symptoms. Other reported pet health problems pertaining to convulsions, hives, tremors and skin irritation.(2)
Items from China, not just animal treats, but those designed for human consumption and use, are often a hot topic. Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of the health hazards of purchasing products from China, as they’re frequently linked to iffy manufacturing, handling, shipment and inspection practices.
The bottom line: stay away from items made in China
“We don’t trust, for good reason, the Chinese to supply ingredients for our dog and cat food,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. “Why should we trust Chinese exporters for the food that we are feeding our children and families?”(3)
Consider that the USDA and FDA only inspect, at most, 2 percent of the food that enters U.S. ports (where “serious problems” are said to already exist concerning Chinese exports in particular), and the issue becomes very concerning. Furthermore, it’s no secret that Chinese exports are laced with pesticides and a slew of unapproved dyes and chemicals.(3)
The fact that Petco has pulled pet treats made in China from their stores is certainly good news. It’s a move that reinforces their website’s wording that they “want all pets to enjoy safe, healthy environments where they feel loved, happy, comfortable and secure.”(4)
However, considering all of the other “made in China” items that exist, from our clothes and food to children’s toys and household decor, there’s a long way to go to get more retailers on board, following in the same footsteps as Petco. For the time being, consumers can do their best by remaining informed about the topic and, of course, refraining from purchasing such items.