Death toll associated with chicken jerky treats reaches 360; illnesses at 2,200


Despite extensive testing a cause of illness has not been revealed.

Since July 31, the number of pet illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China has continued to increase from 1,800 reports to 2,200, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The death toll has also increased from 300 to 360 canine deaths and one feline death.

Despite extensive testing beginning in 2007 by the FDA, the Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (Vet-LRN) and other animal health diagnostic laboratories in the United States for multiple chemical and microbiological contaminants, the results have not revealed a cause of illness. Without a determined cause of illness the FDA has stopped short of recalling the chicken jerky products, only issuing warnings about the risks of feeding pets chicken jerky products imported from China. The FDA says it is now testing irradiation by-products and is consulting with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and it conducted five plant inspections in China during March and April 2012.

The volume of pet food imports regulated by the FDA from 2003 to 2011 has grown “85-fold,” the FDA says. It estimates that nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011. Jerky pet treats are considered the fastest growing segment in the pet food market. While most of the complaints are associated with chicken jerky treats, tenders and strips, complaints have also been reported in association with duck jerky and jerky wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes and yams.

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