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Both U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich have sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration commissioner urging swift action concerning “tainted” pet treats from China.

At a news conference Monday in Cleveland, Brown was joined by Kevin Thaxton, a Westlake man whose 10-year-old pug died after eating chicken jerky treats. Following that, Thaxton’s 5-month-old puppy suffered life-threatening kidney failure after eating the same treats.

It was only after those two incidents that Thaxton caught wind of an FDA warning connecting the illnesses to the imported treats.


“One of my most important jobs as senator is fulfilling constituent services — from helping Ohioans cut red tape to assisting with government resources,” Brown said. “Candace Thaxton, Kevin’s wife, wrote me a letter describing how their pug, Chancey, died as a result of kidney failure after eating chicken jerky treats that were made in China.

“Unfortunately, their story is becoming too familiar — increasing amounts of tainted pet treats imported from China leading to deaths and illnesses in our nation’s pets. We’ve seen the same story play out with the food we eat, where too often we simply don’t know where ingredients come from. It’s critical that the FDA also take swift action to protect consumers and pets from these tainted foods.

Today, I’m calling on the FDA to step up its investigation of the importation of pet food, especially from China, where the possibility of food contamination is high. … Nationwide, approximately 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. For so many Ohioans, including the many dog owners here today, caring for one is very personal. Families need to know that food and treats they purchase at local retailers are safe for their pets to consume.”

What follows is contents of the letter Brown sent to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

It has come to my attention that certain pet treats may be unfit for pets to consume. Some pet owners in my home state of Ohio have reported that certain chicken jerky treats, particularly those made in China, have caused their dogs to suffer from symptoms such as decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, renal failure, and in some cases, death.

I understand that the FDA is examining complaints from consumers and veterinarians and is working to determine the contaminant in these treats. To date, the FDA has not identified a contaminant and therefore they remain on the shelves of grocery markets and pet stores across the country. The concern over pet food contamination is not without basis. In recent years there have been sizable recalls of foreign-made pet food products due to contaminants including salmonella and melamine.

I urge you to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet foods, alert customers of the dangers of these products, and make sure the products found harmful are pulled from the retail market.

Additionally, in your response, please explain the FDA’s current procedure for notifying consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of pending investigations into possible pet food safety breaches. Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA’s website? How are retailers and manufacturers notified of potential concerns and what action is required on behalf of each party in response?

Thank you for all your efforts to protect public health and the safety of our nation’s pets. I look forward to your swift actions and response.

In his letter, Kucinich demanded that the treats be recalled.

“The FDA has clearly established an association between consumption of the chicken jerky and illness and death. It is simply not feasible to expect every dog owner to be aware of a modestly publicized warning from the FDA,” Kucinich wrote. “The FDA must not wait to issue a voluntary recall until it is able to definitively identify a causal agent.”

Click here to read Kucinich’s entire letter.

  • Click here to read the FDA alert regarding chicken jerky dog treats.


Also, the Pet Food Institute on Monday issued the following statement regarding chicken jerky dog treats:

“Members of the Pet Food Institute consider the health and safety of America’s cats and dogs to be our highest priority. PFI members are committed to producing safe, healthful and nutritious food products for our pets. We care deeply about the wellbeing of the country’s dogs and cats, support the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and follow all federal and state laws, regulations and requirements. PFI members continuously work closely with FDA to ensure a safe supply of all pet food products.

FDA and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have stated the following key facts regarding chicken jerky treats.

What the recent FDA statement says about chicken jerky treats for dogs:
On Nov. 18, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update about chicken jerky treats for dogs. Consistent with their prior 2007 and 2008 statements, the FDA stated: ‘To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause of reported [dog] illnesses. FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified a contaminant.’ The statement further says that ‘Many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky.’

No chicken jerky dog treat products have been recalled in the United States. The FDA continues to advise dog owners that chicken jerky products are treats, and therefore should not be substituted for a balanced diet, and that treats are intended to be fed occasionally in small quantities.

What the AVMA says about chicken jerky treats for dogs:
The June 22, 2011, statement from the AVMA is consistent with the FDA in stating that ‘a definitive cause-and-effect link has not been established.’ The AVMA further states, ‘Based on very preliminary information, it appears that this problem is more likely to occur in small-breed dogs that are fed these treats regularly and/or in amounts exceeding the label-recommended frequency or amount.'”