We are what we eat!

But being careful about what our dogs eat is another story!

This is not the first time that I have used this title for a blog post.  The previous time was almost eighteen months ago when I highlighted a fascinating talk about the green revolution by Raj Patel, the award-winning writer, activist, and academic.

However, today is a first in that it looks at what our dogs eat.  It was inspired by a recent article by Brady Dennis in the Washington Post.  Here’s how that article opened:

Mystery of pet deaths related to jerky treats made in China continues to stump FDA

By Brady Dennis, Published: March 28

Andy lost his appetite. Then came the vomiting, the unquenchable thirst, the constant need to urinate. Over several days last year, the spunky 4-year-old West Highland white terrier grew lethargic and lost more than 10 percent of his weight.

“It got bad,” said Andy’s owner, Alfredo Gude, a retiree in Cape Coral, Fla. “I knew that he was in trouble.”

Gude and his wife rushed Andy to their veterinarian, who referred him to a clinic 15 miles away. Doctors there sent a urine sample to a specialized metabolic lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Days later, test results confirmed the diagnosis: Fanconi syndrome, a rare, often fatal illness that affects the kidneys. The suspected cause: chicken jerky pet treats manufactured in China.

The incident is part of a troubling mystery lasting more than seven years, with reports of at least 600 dogs dying and thousands of others sickened. It has outraged unsuspecting pet owners, confounded the Food and Drug Administration and put the pet food industry’s manufacturing practices under a microscope.

A little later on in the article, Brady Dennis writes:

Bernadette Dunham, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, has called it “one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” a sentiment echoed by others at the agency.

“We are frustrated,” said Martine Hartogensis, who oversees the FDA’s ongoing investigation. “It’s been a long, winding, twisting road . . . [But] we haven’t given up.”

The FDA says it has tested more than 1,200 jerky treats in recent years, looking for salmonella, mold, pesticides, toxic metals, outlawed antibiotics, nephrotoxins and other contaminants. Federal officials have inspected factories in China that manufacture chicken jerky products for U.S. companies and sought input from academics, state and university research labs, foreign governments and the pet food industry. The agency even made its own jerky treats to try to duplicate the commercial process.

This is not some minor issue reinforced by the huge increase in dog food imports into the USA from China.  Back to Brady:

The long-running investigation has paralleled a striking increase in the amount of pet food China exports to the United States. That volume increased from barely 1 million pounds in 2003 to an estimated 86 million pounds by 2011, according to the FDA.

Pet treats, including the jerky treats at the heart of the current investigation, have made up a fast-growing sliver of the pet food market. Part of the reason many U.S. companies have looked to China to produce chicken jerky treats, industry officials say, is that unlike in America, people in China overwhelmingly prefer dark meat. That leaves a larger supply of the white meat used in pet treats available for exporting.

Then a few paragraphs later, he adds:

“It’s maddening that it has gone on this long,” said Susan Thixton, who runs the Web site TruthAboutPetFood.com, which has repeatedly demanded that the agency do more. “If this were humans dying, and they couldn’t figure out a cause for seven years, members of Congress would be screaming at them.”

The home page of her site displays a clock tracking how long jerky treats from China have been killing and sickening pets. It asks: “When will FDA make this clock stop?” As of Friday, the count stood at 2,643 days.

“My job is to point out that they aren’t doing their job,” Thixton said. “I have a lot of respect for what they have to accomplish. They have huge responsibilities, but this is one of them.”

When I read out the article to Jean what then jumped ‘off the page’ was this paragraph [my emphasis]:

Angry pet owners also have heaped criticism on U.S. companies that continue to manufacture jerky treats with ingredients from China. The backlash includes everything from skepticism over the industry’s assurances that the treats have never posed health risks to lawsuits alleging harm.

As Susan Thixton was reported earlier: “If this were humans dying, and they couldn’t figure out a cause for seven years, members of Congress would be screaming at them.”  Quite so!

Luckily, owners are responding as Brady highlights in these paragraphs:

Nina Leigh Krueger, head of the Waggin’ Train brand, said most retailers and customers have welcomed the treats back. “Thousands of consumers have been calling and asking us for Waggin’ Train treats to be back on the market,” she said.

Terry Safranek is not one of them.

“It’s a kick in the gut to see them back on the shelf,” said Safranek, whose 9-year-old fox terrier, Sampson, who had eaten jerky treats, died of kidney failure in 2012. Since then, Safranek has become a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against Nestlé Purina and retailers including Target and Wal-Mart. She helped create Animal Parents Against Pet Treats and Food Made in China, a group that has petitioned the FDA to do better in alerting people about the potential dangers of jerky treats produced in Chinese factories.

The link in the last paragraph takes the reader to the Facebook page for that group.  Do go there and ‘Like’ the page.

I will close by recommending you read the Washington Post article in full and then spend some time perusing the website Truth about Pet Food. This is not just about ‘Made in America’ but fighting to ensure that animal treats made in the USA are also using ingredients from the USA!

Remember how Brady opened his article?  With Alfredo Gude learning that their dog, Andy, had been diagnosed with Fanconi syndrome, a rare and often fatal illness that affects the kidneys of dogs.

Well last words left with Brady Dennis:

For now, on Florida’s west coast, Andy the terrier has returned to normal after months of treatments — about $3,500 worth — to restore his kidney function. “We feel very lucky,” said Gude, who has taken the advice of many vets around the country to steer clear of pet jerky treats altogether. “It could have gone another way.”

Our dogs (and cats) have a right to be fed to the same standards as us humans!

6 thoughts on “We are what we eat!

    1. Alex, in one sense your question is entirely valid. However, the WP article raised core issues that I thought had been addressed long ago for the food we humans eat. Perhaps, as Sue’s comment below illustrates, my judgement is wrong.

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  1. I totally agree Paul.. but it appears that what goes into our Pet food is not scrutinised .. Even Human Food as you know here in the UK with the scandal last year about Beef products containing Horse Meet, from Burgers to Cottage Pie and other ready meals… So checks are not being done…
    Profit it seems comes before Pets or People… Sad… but true…

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