Dr. Ernie Ward talks about the latest in Chinese-made chicken jerky recalls.
There’s reason to be cautious about Chinese-made chicken jerky dog treats. Last week four brands issued voluntary recalls after government agencies found undeclared and unapproved antibiotic residues in the popular dog treats. But that’s not the end, or beginning, of this story.
For almost two years, The US Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine has been concerned about deaths in dogs related to chicken jerky recalls. It seems that many canines have become ill or have died after eating these treats. The FDA and private organizations failed to find a definitive cause of the dog’s sudden illnesses. The FDA conducted inspections of the Chinese plant that produced the troubled treats, Yantai Aska, finding essentially nothing. Still, strange illnesses continued to be reported, especially in dogs fed Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch, and Milo’s Kitchen, although many other brands were also reported.
Last week the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) reported they had found trace residues of unapproved antibiotics. This may or may not be the reason dogs have been getting sick. I think it simply reveals how complex and complicated international food production has become.
When foods or ingredients are sourced outside the US, inspection and regulation becomes more challenging for US officials. What is standard and legal in one country may be considered dangerous and illegal in ours. Making matters worse are economic pressures to raise corporate profits, differences in food animal production techniques, and consequences for violating laws or guidelines. This forms a perfect storm of risks that make your job as a good pet parent more difficult. When I tell you it’s important to read food labels, I mean it. Your pet’s life may depend on it.
While the mystery of the chicken jerky treat isn’t solved yet, my advice hasn’t changed: I recommend not feeding any jerky treat manufactured in China until this is resolved.
My guess is that as the current Yantai Anska plant investigation proceeds, more brands will be recalled. It’s important as an informed consumer to keep in mind that these plants are massive, producing thousands of tons of food each year for many companies. Two of the world’s largest pet food companies, Purina (Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch) and Del Monte (Milo’s Kitchen) outsource their chicken jerky treats to this company. This reminds me of the 2007 pet food recall in the worst way. When will we learn?
I’ll keep you updated on emerging recalls and any information from the FDA-CVM or other regulatory agencies. For now, trash those jerky treats and try whole food substitutes such as carrots, broccoli, celery, or asparagus. Fewer calories, better nutrition, and no worry about toxic antibiotic residues. Lesson learned.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.