Both Del Monte and Nestle Purina announced this week that they are voluntarily pulling popular chicken jerky dog treats made in China off the market after the New York State Department of Agriculture found possible contamination by an antibiotic that is illegal in the U.S.
Angry U.S. pet owners have alleged that chicken jerky treats made in China have caused kidney failure, illness and death in hundreds of dogs, and the FDA has issued three different warnings to pet owners in the past five years about possible risks associated with the treats.
FDA tests for toxins and heavy metals have never found an explanation for the alleged illnesses, but Nestle Purina and Del Monte decided to pull their products after New York officials said Monday that they had found trace amounts of a banned antibiotic in Del Monte's Milo's Kitchen products and in Nestle Purina's Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch treats.
"Pet safety and consumer confidence in our products are our top priorities," said Rob Leibowitz, Del Monte's general manager for Pet Products. "While there is no known health risk, the presence of even trace amounts of these antibiotics does not meet our high quality standards. Therefore, today we decided to recall both products and asked retailers to remove the products from their shelves."
In a statement, Nestle Purina emphasized that there was no health risk to pets, and that "there is no indication that the trace amounts of antibiotic residue are linked to the FDA's ongoing investigation of chicken jerky products."
"All of us at Waggin' Train care deeply about pets and their owners, and the quality of our products is of the utmost importance," said Nina Leigh Krueger, president of Nestle Purina's Waggin' Train LLC. "In the final analysis, our company and our loyal customers must have total confidence in the products we sell and feed our pets. Once we understand and determine how to comply with the technicalities of different regulatory frameworks, we will work with all appropriate parties to define the best way to supply the market."
The company said its nationwide voluntary recall was a response to "differences in U.S. and Chinese regulations."
Holly McCutcheon, a pet-owner and activist who had demanded the products be recalled, said she "jumped for joy" and cried when she heard the news. "I do not believe [Nestle Purina] and Del Monte are actually admitting this is related to the ongoing investigation of the thousands of reported illness and deaths attributed to their treats," she said, "but the important thing is that these items are taken off the shelves immediately."
"I truly hope that consumer pressure has pushed Nestle Purina and Del Monte to make this decision," she added. "It is unfortunate that we had to go for so long before they reacted."