Chicken Jerky Production To Continue, Says China



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Rep. Jerry McNerney urged the Chinese government to halt production of jerky treats suspected of sickening pets.

The People’s Republic of China refused a plea from a U.S. congressman to cease production of chicken jerky treats and rebuked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for issuing warnings to pet owners about feeding the treats to pets.

The treats have been linked to pet illnesses and even deaths across the United States and Canada, but the FDA has been unable to determine what aspect, if any, of the treats is causing the illnesses.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, a California Democrat, urged the Chinese government in a letter to “consider halting production of these chicken jerky treats until the FDA can determine whether or not the products contain tainted material,” KGO-TV in San Francisco reported Wednesday.

The Chinese government responded, saying that “from the perspective of the Chinese side, there might be something wrong with the FDA’s investigation guidance,” according to KGO-TV.

The FDA began warning pet owners about the potential dangers of feeding China-sourced jerky treats to pets in 2007 after receiving a flurry of reports of adverse reactions. The number of complaints subsided in late 2009, but by 2011 adverse event reports increased again, prompting the FDA to issue another warning.

Earlier this year, the FDA’s warning about Chinese-produced jerky treats expanded to include duck and sweet potato jerky treats.

The jerky treats have not been recalled because the FDA cannot find a contaminant causing the illnesses.

The FDA has tested product samples for salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, nephrotoxins and other chemicals and poisonous compounds. The agency also is testing the nutritional composition, in part to determine the concentration of glycerin in the treats. The agency has outsourced some of the testing to private laboratories.

Earlier this year the FDA inspected several Chinese facilities that manufacture jerky pet treats but found no evidence that the firms’ treats were causing the illnesses. The Chinese government refused to allow the FDA to take samples back to the United States for testing. 

The FDA had no official comment on the correspondence with McNerney, but a spokesperson said the agency is continuing to work with the Chinese government in its investigation and values the government's cooperation.

Blood chemistry analyzed from sickened pets revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine reported. Blood gas analysis indicated acidosis and occasional gluscosuria and granular casts. The college recommended treatment options such as supportive care, electrolyte supplementation (including potassium supplementation) and blood gas monitoring.

Most of the dogs affected recovered after treatment, the American Veterinary Medical Association noted.

The condition often presents with vomiting, lethargy and anorexia. The AVMA recommended that veterinarians who suspect a pet illness associated with the treats to report the case to the FDA.

The AVMA also recommended that pet owners who feed jerky treats to pets do so in small quantities and only on occasion, especially with small-breed dogs.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Dec. 12, 2012, to include a statement from the FDA.

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