The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to identify the source of the possibly tainted pet jerky treats that may have killed nearly 600 pets and sickened more than 3,600 of them since 2007.
There was a flurry of health-related complaints beginning in January of 2007, FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said. The complaints waned in Jan. 2013, when some products were removed from the market after testing positive for unapproved antibiotics. But the agency continues to receive reports of illness tied to jerky treats.
"Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China," the FDA stated on its website. "Investigators have tested more than 1,200 samples but haven't uncovered what could be causing the illnesses."
"Pet owners should be aware that manufacturers do not need to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products, so packages that do not state on the label that they are made in another country may still contain ingredients sourced from China or other countries that export to the U.S.," the FDA website states.
The treats are sold as jerky tenders or strips and are made with chicken, duck, sweet potato, dried fruit and in combinations of these ingredients. Dozens of brands have been implicated. But because the source of contamination has not been identified, the FDA has yet to issue a recall.
Here is some important information pet owners need about the FDA investigation and the potential danger to their furry friends.
|Consumer Adverse Report Analysis|
ABC News analyzed the most recent three months of consumer complaints reported by the FDA about tainted pet jerky, from July 2013 to September 2013. There have been 1,200 complaints overall and 140 during this time period. Burgess said the information in the recent complaints are consistent with complaints from other time periods.
Complaints are also known as adverse reports that identify problems when a product is consumed but do not establish a causative link.
Waggin' Train Jerky Treats by Nestle Purina received the highest number of complaints. During the three-month time period, 29 of the 140 consumer complaints named one of various flavors of this product.
One consumer claimed that his dog went into kidney failure and died after eating Waggin' Train chicken jerky strips. Others said their pets' symptoms included diarrhea, vomiting and bloody stools.
Another Purina product, Canyon Creek Ranch Jerky Treats, also received similar complaints.
The company has not responded to ABC News' requests for comment.
Varieties of Dogswell Happy Hips Dog Jerky were also named in 11 FDA complaints. Consumers reported that their dogs vomited, became severely anemic or went into kidney failure sometime after eating the treats.
Several Dogswell products list China as a "country of source" and/or a "country of manufacture" on wag.com, a large pet supply website.
"We are aware that the FDA posted yesterday an update to their ongoing investigation into Jerky treats," Dogswell spokesman Brad Armistead said. "As pet lovers and owners, the quality and safety of our treats are of the utmost importance to us which is why we remain committed to only producing high-quality treats that meet or exceed FDA guidelines."
Vitalife Duck & Sweet Potato Recipe Twists and Vitalife Chicken Treats received seven complaints in eight months. Two complaints during the three-month period reported the death of their pet after consuming a Vitalife product.
Vitalife's website says all its products are made in Thailand in "our very own kitchen."
"We routinely perform testing on our products at a level above and beyond any regulatory threshold and exceed all applicable standards of the USDA, CFIA and AAFCO," company spokesman Adam Manna said.
Milo's Kitchen Home-Style Dog Treats made by Del Monte Corp. were also named in eight consumer complaints.
One consumer said he spent more than $4,000 trying to diagnose and treat his dog's chronic diarrhea and dehydration before determining the treat was causing the problem. Four consumers reported their dog died after consuming a Milo's Kitchen product.
The treats were voluntarily pulled from store shelves in January of this year for containing unapproved antibiotics and have not come back on the market yet.
"Milo's Kitchen believed that the product did not meet its high quality standards, and so the company decided to stop selling it," company spokeswoman Chrissy Trampedach said.
The FDA does not specifically recommend avoiding feeding your pets jerky treats. Instead, Burgess said they "are not a necessary part of a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets. All the nutrients your pet needs can be found in commercially produced pet food."
The FDA recommends consumers who are worried their dog or cat might have eaten a contaminated treat to watch the pet closely. Signs that might occur within hours to days of feeding the products are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. Severe cases are diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney failure or the resemblance of a rare kidney-related illness called Fanconi syndrome.
The FDA is asking veterinarians and pet owners whose pets become sick after eating a jerky treat to file a report with the agency. Consumers are also asked to save samples of the treats for possible testing.