In the past year and a half, at least 360 dogs and one cat have died in the U.S. after eating chicken jerky pet treats made in China, according to a new online summary posted by the FDA.
Meanwhile, more than 2,200 reports have come in to the agency from pet owners claiming their animals were sickened or died after eating these products. Cases have come from all 50 states and six Canadian provinces.
The FDA says the majority of complaints involve chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), but others include duck, sweet potato, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes, or yams.
NBC Bay Area has confirmed at least 1,086 reports of illness have come into the FDA’s local field offices between January 1, 2007, and Sept. 12, 2012. In 27 of the cases, death was reported in connection with the pet treats.
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The FDA’s summary states nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011. The fastest growing segment of the pet food market is currently pet treats. The agency cannot issue a recall based solely on consumer complaints, but it is reminding pet owners that they can avoid the products completely, saying “jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets.”
Morgan Hill pet owner Rachael Chambers, who shared her story after her dog Cali died, told NBC Bay Area Monday that she has been working closely with local and state lawmakers to get warning labels posted in stores near the pet treats.
“I have asked Senator Boxer and Congressman McNerney’s offices to investigate the possibility of a law being put in place that warns consumers of FDA advisories on store shelves rather than just on an FDA website. I strongly believe the majority of consumers don’t know that advisories exist and if they do, even where to find them. They need to be on store shelves to ensure all consumers have an equal opportunity to know they exist. If this had been in place, our dog would still be here today,” said Chambers.
The FDA said it is now looking into whether or how irradiation may have affected the treats or contributed to any illness in pets.