Jerky treats recall not tied to mysterious pet illnesses

Antibiotic residues detected by New York inspectors

Published: January 11, 2013
By Jennifer Fiala

Photo by Edie Lau
Nestle-Purina and Del Monte Corp. recalled their chicken jerky treats after New York inspectors found trace amounts of banned antibiotics in the products.
Two major manufacturers of chicken jerky treats for dogs pulled their brands from store shelves this week after it was discovered that the products contained trace amounts of antibiotics, most of which are banned for use in poultry in the United States.

Jerky treats, particularly those made in China, have earned a reputation in recent years for mysteriously sickening pets. These latest recalls, however, are not linked to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ongoing investigation into what’s caused thousands of reported cases of illness in dogs.

The discovery that some jerky treats contain antibiotic residues likely will do little to help the FDA identify a chemical or microbiological contaminant in jerky treats that can be blamed for causing serious adverse health consequences, said Dr. Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist.

“It’s no smoking gun,” said Gwaltney-Brant, former vice president and medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “(Government inspectors) have to issue recalls when they find adulterated food — whether it’s pet food or people food — and they find it several times a week. It’s not like this is unusual.”

Officials with Nestle Purina PetCare Co. announced Wednesday that they recalled Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats until further notice. At the same time, Milo’s Kitchen, owned by the Del Monte Corp., recalled its brand of chicken jerky and chicken grillers Home-style dog treats.

The recalls came after the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) reportedly found trace amounts of sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin and sulfaquinoxaline in the products. The antibiotics are approved for use in China, where most jerky treats are made, but outlawed in the United States. 

Officials at NYDAM could not be reached to confirm their findings. The FDA stated that the agency is aware and “supportive” of the recalls.

“It’s important to note that the residue levels found by NYSDAM are very low and that FDA does not believe that they would trigger health concerns, nor that they are the cause of the reports of illness and deaths that we have received,” said Siobhan DeLancey, RVT, MPH, veterinary medicine team lead in the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

While the antibiotic residues aren’t raising red flags for some veterinarians, jerky treats in general do. Practitioners around the country advise owners to steer clear of jerky treats until the FDA definitively determines whether a chemical or microbiological contaminant is sickening pets.

Signs of illness, which tend to occur within hours or days of feeding the products, include decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and urination. Veterinarians report observing symptoms in dogs that consume jerky treats that mimic Fanconi, a typically inherited disease in which the kidneys do not properly resorb electrolytes and nutrients to the body and release them in the urine.

On Wednesday, FDA officials released the agency's latest adverse event reports. More than 2,000 complaints from pet owners and veterinarians have been filed with FDA since 2007.

"FDA reminds pet owners that jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets," the agency stated in a news release. "Commercially produced pet food, which is very safe, contains all of the nutrients that pets need."

Editor's note: Other makers of jerky treats have followed Nestle Purina and Del Monte Corp. with recalls of their own. Publix Super Markets recalled Publix Chicken Tenders Dog Chew Treats because the product may contain trace amounts of antibiotic residue. The 3.5-ounce bags were sold in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee and are marked with the UPC code 41415-18527. IMS Trading Corp recalled its Cadet brand chicken jerky treats after the NYSDAM found trace amounts of antibiotic residue in samples of the product. The recall is nationwide.



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