Chinese government officials are firing back at the Food and Drug Administration, arguing that it's unfair their country is being blamed for the illnesses and deaths of beloved American pets that have eaten Chinese-made jerky treats.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit obtained a letter (PDF) this week from the head of “Inspection and Quarantine” for the People’s Republic of China.
In it, Zhi Shuping, minister of China’s General Administration of quality supervision, inspection and quarantine said: “It is not proper for the U.S… to release [a] warning alert aiming at the consumption of Chinese chicken jerky treats, when there is no scientific evidence and conclusion.”
“Five years is long enough for the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to find out the truth,” Shuping wrote.
He expressed his “sincere concern and sympathy” regarding the illnesses and deaths in American pet dogs. But Shuping said he was disappointed that the United States has not found the exact cause of pet illnesses, and yet still seems to be blaming the Chinese-made treats.
He implored the FDA to “clear the name of Chinese pet food,” noting China has cooperated with FDA officials and provided samples for testing.
At issue is the more than 2,200 pet illnesses, including 360 cat and dog deaths, reported to the FDA since 2007, all mentioning the animals had eaten chicken jerky treats from China.
The FDA continues to say there is no conclusive link between the treats and any pet illness or death. However, the federal agency has issued three warnings in the past five years advising pet owners of the complaints.
In the letter, Shuping added that the FDA should also be looking at Malaysia. Glycerin has been flagged as a possible contaminant in the pet treats, and Malaysia is the country where the glycerin comes from. For its part, China's own testing hasn't found any problem with the glycerin, and neither has the United States.
Shuping’s letter comes as a response to a September inquiry from U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney. That's because the Democratic congressman from Stockton was contacted by constituent Rachael Chambers of Morgan Hill, who lost her dog, Cali, May 30.
Chambers told NBC Bay Area she believes the tainted chicken jerky treats caused her dog’s death.
She has been active in imploring local and state lawmakers to pressure the FDA to recall chicken jerky treats from China. In the meantime, she is asking stores to at least post the FDA advisory near the products that are still on shelves.
"I believe if an advisory has been issued, it’s not enough to just post it on the FDA website and hope people will stumble across it. We need notification on store shelves," Chambers said. "I am glad there is dialog underway, although I continue to be frustrated by the lack of action by any of the parties involved (FDA, Distributors and Chinese Manufacturers)."
Chambers said that since May, she knows of 23 more dogs that have died from these treats.
" Why are pets not put above profits? Aren’t there enough other products out there to sell?" Chambers asked.
NBC Bay Area asked for a response to the minister’s letter from the FDA. In an email, the agency wrote: “FDA has no comment on the letter from AQSIQ to Congressman McNerney itself, but we are continuing to work with the Chinese government in our investigation and value their cooperation in this matter."
Read more about the FDA’s investigation here.