Tag: Food and Drug Administration

That Vitamin D issue.

A very useful article published by The Smithsonian.

SMARTNEWS published by The Smithsonian yesterday confirmed what we were starting to suspect; there was a widespread problem with excessive Vitamin D in dog food.


Excessive Vitamin D in Pet Food May Be Making Dogs Sick

A number of brands, including Nutrisca and Natural Life, have issued recalls of certain products

(HANNAH SUMMERS / Alamy Stock Photo)

By Brigit Katz
smithsonian.com  December 5, 2018

The Food and Drug Administration is warning dog owners to keep a close watch on their furry friends, after several brands of dry dog food were found to contain potentially toxic levels of vitamin D.

According to NPR’s Amy Held, the FDA has received reports of dogs falling ill after eating certain foods, which are made by an unnamed manufacturer and sold under at least eight different brands. Nutrisca and Natural Life issued recalls in early November, reports Shelby Lin Erdman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and several other brands have followed suit. The full list, which includes products by Sunshine Mills and ELM Pet Foods, can be seen here.

The FDA says the situation is developing, and its scientists are still working to definitively link the dogs’ illnesses to their diet. But when the agency sampled some of the questionable products, it found that the foods contained as much as 70 times the amount of intended vitamin D.

As it does in humans and other mammals, vitamin D helps dogs maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in their bodies, which is essential for bone formation, along with heart, muscle and nerve function.

But if pooches ingest excessive doses of the nutrient—which happens most often when dogs accidentally eat vitamin D-containing rodenticide —their calcium and phosphorous levels can get thrown off balance, according to the veterinary company VCA. Very high amounts of vitamin D can have a number of serious health effects on dogs, including kidney disease and even death.

Symptoms of vitamin D poisoning in dogs include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss. The FDA says that pet owners who notice these symptoms in dogs that have been eating the recalled brands should contact their vets right away—there are treatments that can help.

The agency also recommends disposing of recalled products in a way that makes them inaccessible to pets, wildlife and children. And owners who suspect that their dogs have fallen sick from vitamin D poisoning can report the illness to the FDA through an online portal.


That online portal may be accessed here.

Please share this with other dog lovers.

Potentially dangerous Jerky Treats.

With thanks to Cynthia for including me on her recent email.


FDA seeks pet owner help on dangerous jerky treats

From Associated Press October 23, 2013 8:17 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Food and Drug Administration is appealing to dog and cat owners for information as it struggles to solve a mysterious outbreak of illness and deaths among pets that ate jerky treats.

In a notice to consumers and veterinarians published Tuesday, the agency said it has linked illnesses from jerky pet treats to 3,600 dogs and 10 cats since 2007. About 580 of those pets have died.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine has run more than 1,200 tests, visited pet treat manufacturing plants in China and worked with researchers, state labs and foreign governments but hasn’t determined the exact cause of the illness, the FDA statement said.

“This is one of the most elusive and mysterious outbreaks we’ve encountered,” Bernadette Dunham, a veterinarian and head of the FDA vet medicine center, said in the statement.

Pets can suffer from a decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting and diarrhea among other symptoms within hours of eating treats sold as jerky tenders or strips made of chicken, duck, sweet potatoes or dried fruit.

Severe cases have involved kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and a rare kidney disorder, the FDA said.

Most of the jerky treats implicated have been made in China, the FDA said.

The FDA has issued previous warnings. A number of jerky pet treat products were removed from the market in January after a New York state lab reported finding evidence of up to six drugs in certain jerky pet treats made in China, the FDA said. The agency said that while the levels of the drugs were very low and it was unlikely that they caused the illnesses, there was a decrease in reports of jerky-suspected illnesses after the products were removed from the market. FDA believes that the number of reports may have declined simply because fewer jerky treats were available.


That FDA Notice is here.  I have taken the liberty of republishing it in full.


Jerky Pet Treats

dog laying down

The problem

Since 2007, FDA has received reports of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats. As of September 24, 2013, FDA has received approximately 3000 reports of pet illnesses which may be related to consumption of the jerky treats. The reports involve more than 3600 dogs, 10 cats and include more than 580 deaths.

What we are doing

FDA is working with laboratories across the country to investigate causes. To date, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses.

We have tested for:

  • Salmonella
  • Metals or Elements (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, etc.)
  • Markers of irradiation level (such as acyclobutanones).
  • Pesticides
  • Antibiotics (including both approved and unapproved sulfanomides and tetracyclines)
  • Mold and mycotoxins (toxins from mold)
  • Rodenticides
  • Nephrotoxins (such as aristolochic acid, maleic acid, paraquat, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, toxic hydrocarbons, melamine, and related triazines)
  • Other chemicals and poisonous compounds (such as endotoxins).

Testing has also included measuring the nutritional composition of jerky pet treats to verify that they contain the ingredients listed on the label and do not contain ingredients that are not listed on the label. Another area of investigation includes the effects of irradiation and its byproducts.

Find out more.

What consumers can do

Watch your pet closely. Signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the jerky treat 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.

If your pet has experienced signs of illness, please report it to FDA. Once a consumer has filed a report with their local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator, or electronically through our safety reporting portal, FDA will determine whether there is a need to conduct a follow-up phone call or obtain a sample of the jerky pet treat product in question. While FDA does not necessarily respond to every individual complaint submitted, each report becomes part of the body of knowledge that helps to inform FDA on the situation or incident.

What veterinarians can do

The “Dear Veterinarian” letter to veterinary professionals explains how they can provide valuable assistance to the agency’s investigation, requests that veterinarians report to FDA any cases of jerky pet treat-related illness that come to their attention and, when requested, that they also provide samples for diagnostic testing by the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN), a network of veterinary laboratories affiliated with FDA.


I just mentioned this to Jeannie who says that while we do feed our dogs jerky treats, she is careful to purchase only those brands that are made in the USA.

Feel free to republish this howsoever you wish.

The truth about (pet) food!

We are what we eat! A sobering assessment of the food industry this Friday, the 13th!

This saying, which has been around for some time, reminds us that the foods we eat break down into elements that our bodies absorb. What we eat literally becomes part of us, and not just us humans but our dogs and cats as well.  That’s why I haven’t differentiated between us humans and our pets in this Post.

Let’s start off with our pets.

On the 28th December, just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the possible harm to dogs from Jerky treats coming in to the USA from China.  Kenneth Bryant of TriPom Chews added a comment that included a link to a news story about 353 dogs possibly being made sick.  Since then he and I have been in email correspondence including Ken passing the web address of Susan Thixton’s website Truth about Pet Food.  If you have a pet, go to this website!

I’m sure Susan wouldn’t mind me giving you a flavour (pardon the pun!) of what she has on this important website.  Try this.

Is there Chicken in Chicken Pet Foods?

One of the newest trends of pet food marketing is a tag line something like ‘Chicken is the first ingredient’.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  Chicken, first or second on the ingredient list surely means this pet food contains lots of quality meat doesn’t it?  No wonder this ‘chicken’ pet food is a little more expensive – it contains more meat.  Right?  Maybe not.

Just because petsumers think meat when the ingredient ‘chicken’ is listed on a label, doesn’t mean the pet food actually contains chicken meat.  Pet food can have a very different definition of ‘chicken’.  Thanks to very broad Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ingredient definitions, the ingredient ‘chicken’ listed on a pet food label could be nothing more than skin, bone, cartilage, and maybe a few tiny fragments of meat.

Here is the AAFCO definition of poultry (quoting the 2011 AAFCO Official Publication): “Poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.  It shall be suitable for use in animal food.  If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Problems with this pet food ingredient definition…
#1  This ingredient (which includes all types of poultry including chicken) can be “a combination thereof” of any part of poultry.  This means that a pet food, proudly claiming Chicken as the #1 ingredient, can include ONLY chicken bones and/or skin (left over from the human food industry).

#2  “It shall be suitable for use in animal food” means that animals rejected for use in human food for reasons including (but not limited to) disease and drug residues are approved for use in pet food.  This we can thank the FDA for.  Federal Food Safety Laws should make it illegal for pet food to include whole or parts of diseased or rejected animals, but FDA Compliance Policies tell pet food it is acceptable to use diseased and drugged animals in pet food [My emboldening, PH.] (“it shall be suitable for use in animal food”).

Chicken Meal/Poultry Meal is very similarly defined – except ‘meal’ implies moisture removed.  However the very same end result can apply – the meal can consist of little more than skin and bones — no meat.

Other pet food meat ingredient definitions are a bit more descriptive, however all meat pet food ingredient definitions include the “it shall be suitable for use in animal food” disclaimer.  Thus any pet food meat ingredient – thanks to FDA Compliance Policies and AAFCO ingredient definitions – can be the same quality as human meats or can be sourced from diseased, rejected animals.  But, regulations do NOT provide petsumers with a means to determine which is which.

Read the rest of this article on Susan’s website.  Even better subscribe to her newsletters.

I could go on and on but will close this section by saying ‘thanks’ to Ken of TriPom for providing this awareness of what we all may be feeding our beloved cats and dogs.

So, humans next!

Just a few days ago there was an article on The Atlantic magazine website about The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods.  It’s a detailed article that, nonetheless, needs to be read by the widest possible audience.  Here are some extracts,

Chinese researchers have found small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to proteins in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.

The type of RNA in question is called microRNA, due to its small size. MicroRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been linked to human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. The Chinese research provides the first example of ingested plant microRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function.

Should the research survive scientific scrutiny, it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we’re eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but information as well.

Later on the article says,

Monsanto’s claim that human toxicology tests are unwarranted is based on the doctrine of “substantial equivalence.” This term is used around the world as the basis of regulations designed to facilitate the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered foods, by sparing them from extensive safety testing.

According to substantial equivalence, comparisons between GM and non-GM crops need only investigate the end products of DNA translation: the pizza, as it were. “There is no need to test the safety of DNA introduced into GM crops. DNA (and resulting RNA) is present in almost all foods,” Monsanto’s website reads. “DNA is non-toxic and the presence of DNA, in and of itself, presents no hazard.”

The Chinese RNA study threatens to blast a major hole in that claim. It means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous.

And the closing two paragraphs,

The OECD’s 34 member nations could be described as largely rich, white, developed, and sympathetic to big business. The group’s current mission is to spread economic development to the rest of the world. And while that mission has yet to be accomplished, OECD has helped Monsanto spread substantial equivalence to the rest of the world, selling a lot of GM seed along the way.

The news that we’re ingesting information as well as physical material should force the biotech industry to confront the possibility that new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for. Can we count on the biotech industry to accept the notion that more testing is necessary? Not if such action is perceived as a threat to the bottom line.

Please read the whole article as my extracts do not give justice to the importance of these findings.

Finally, let me turn to a recent item on the BBC website about the decline of brain function from as soon as age 45!  (I’m 67!)  The item starts,

The brain’s ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as 45, suggests a study in the British Medical Journal.

University College London researchers found a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in women and men aged 45-49.

What caught my eye were these concluding paragraphs,

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said he wanted to see similar studies carried out in a wider population sample.

He added: “Previous research suggests that our health in mid-life affects our risk of dementia as we age, and these findings give us all an extra reason to stick to our New Year’s resolutions.

“Although we don’t yet have a sure-fire way to prevent dementia, we do know that simple lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check – can all reduce the risk of dementia.”

Professor Lindsey Davies, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said that people should not wait until their bodies and minds broke down before taking action.

“We need only look at the problems that childhood obesity rates will cause if they are not addressed to see how important it is that we take ‘cradle to grave’ approach to public health.”

Let me repeat this sentence, “we do know that simple lifestyle changes – such as eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check – can all reduce the risk of dementia.”

Understanding what food is healthy for us and our animals ought to be straightforward.  But it’s not, when one understands the terrible lack of integrity in the industries that make our food!

Dog treats – possible harm for your dog!

This important information came to hand an hour ago.

Stephanie from our local Payson Humane Society Thrift Shop sent me and Jean an email a short while ago.  While the potential issue goes back to 2007 that is no reason not to keep this in mind when it comes to what commercial treats you give your dog.  Indeed, the US FDA updated their recall information only last November.

Please circulate this to all dog owners that you know.

Here’s a full copy of the release made by the American Veterinary Medical Association,

Jerky treats from China could be causing illness in pets

The AVMA staff has been in communication with veterinarians who believe certain brands of jerky treats from China could be causing illness in pets. Signs of illness have included vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia.

The Food and Drug Administration is aware of consumer complaints relevant to chicken jerky for dogs. Laura Alvey, director of the communications staff at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency is actively investigating the situation.

Alvey said the FDA has analyzed products for multiple microbiologic and chemical contaminants, but the agency had not detected any contaminants as of Sept. 14.

Wal-Mart pulled a type of chicken jerky for pets off store shelves July 26 after receiving complaints about the product, manufactured by both Import-Pingyang Pet Product Co. and Shanghai Bestro Trading. A laboratory that tested the jerky product reported finding low concentrations of melamine, one of the contaminants that led to massive recalls of pet food earlier this year.

Alvey said the FDA has reviewed the laboratory report, which found 20 ppm of melamine in one sample. The agency has not been able to verify the finding. Alvey added that the FDA would not expect the low concentration of melamine to result in any illness.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, an associate professor of small animal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, has been collecting data on cases of pets that became ill after ingesting jerky treats from China. He is the primary author of an informational document available on the Web site of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, www.acvim.org.

According to the document, ACVIM diplomates who work in nephrology and urology became aware of an unusual number of dogs with similar presenting complaints and clinicopathologic testing results in association with the ingestion of various brands of jerky treats, mostly chicken jerky. The dogs are typically small and have a history of vomiting, lethargy, and anorexia.

Blood chemistry in many cases has revealed hypokalemia and a mild increase in liver enzymes. Blood gas analysis indicates acidosis. Urinalysis has consistently shown glucosuria and granular casts. The findings suggest an acquired Fanconi syndrome, according to ACVIM diplomates, and Fanconi screens on urine have been positive.

The ACVIM document recommends treatment consisting of supportive care, electrolyte supplementation, and blood gas monitoring. These cases appear to warrant liberal potassium supplementation. In some cases, veterinarians should consider long-term bicarbonate supplementation.

Most of the dogs have recovered from their acute disease and have not required long-term treatment. Dr. Goldstein at Cornell asks veterinarians who can contribute data on these cases to e-mail him at rg225@cornell.edu. The AVMA will provide updates about the situation at www.avma.org as new information becomes available.

Veterinarians who see any illnesses that they suspect might relate to a pet food should contact an FDA consumer complaint coordinator and the manufacturer or retailer. A list of phone numbers for FDA complaint coordinators in each state is available at www.fda.gov/opacom/backgrounders/complain.html.

As I mentioned, the US. Food and Drug Administration website updated their recall information on November 15th, 2011.  The link is here, from which is reproduced,

List of recalls for Pet Food Products from Jerky Treats

Information current as of noon November 15, 2011
1065 entries in list

Recalls & Withdrawals for Animal & Veterinary Products
Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007: Main Page

The recalls on this list are primarily Class I. Definitions of Class I, II, and III recalls. Additional information about how recalls are conducted can be found at FDA 101: Product Recalls – From First Alert to Effectiveness Checks.

Note: This compiled list represents all pet food recalled since March 2007. If and when new information is received, this list will be updated. The “Information Current as of” date provided above indicates when this Web page was updated; it does not indicate the date when the pet food recalls listed below were initiated. Once listed, each of the recalled pet food products remains listed, even if there are no new recalls associated with that product. Although we have taken care to make sure the information is accurate, if we learn that any information is not accurate we will revise the list as soon as possible. For initiation dates of specific recalls, click on the brand name and then product description links that appear on these pages. For recalls that occurred before September 1, 2008, a date range might appear in the initiation date field. The date range indicates the timeframe within which multiple recalls of this product were initiated. For recalls that occur September 1, 2008 and after, the actual initiation date of each recall event is provided for each product. If a new recall is initiated for a product that had previously been recalled before September 1, 2008, the food product will be listed again, with the new recall initiation date. If a new recall is initiated for a product that had previously been recalled after September, 1, 2008, the initiation date of the new recall event will be added to the previous date listed.

The recall number is V-095-2007  The Trade Name is Jerky Treats

The Product Description is: Jerky Treats Beef Flavor Dog Snacks. The product is sold in 3.75 oz bags and shipped in cases containing 12 bags; sold in 7.5 oz bags shipped in cases containing 6 bags & 12 bags; sold in 11.25 oz bags shipped in cases containing 8 bags; sold in 15 oz bags (which is buy one get one free of the 7.5 oz size) shipped in cases containing 12 bags; sold in 170 g bags shipped in cases containing 12 bags (Canadian only); and sold in 567 g canisters shipped in cases containing 8 canisters (Canadian only).

Finally, I reproduce an item on the Animal Health Foundation website about Treats for Dogs.

Treats for Dogs are Potentially Dangerous

Check the label for country of origin, and be observant if you give your dog chicken jerky treats. The American Veterinary Medical Association was notified last week by the Canadian VMA that several Canadian veterinarians have seen dogs with a condition that resembles Fanconi syndrome, and it may be associated with the consumption of chicken jerky treats manufactured in China. Similar incidents were reported in the United States in 2007 and investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which issued a further warning in 2008.

It’s unknown if the problem is limited to Canada. The AVMA reports that it has not received any recent reports from U.S. veterinarians about pets with illness that may be related to chicken jerky treats, and there have been no recalls of any chicken jerky treat products associated with the Canadian complaints. Brand names of the products involved are not available.

Fanconi syndrome affects the kidney tubes and can be heritable or acquired. The heritable form is rare and usually is seen only in certain breeds, including basenjis and Norwegian elkhounds. The acquired form can be caused by heavy metal poisoning or certain chemicals. Dogs affected with the acquired syndrome usually have signs that include vomiting, listlessness and lack of appetite. According to the FDA’s 2008 report, extensive chemical and microbial testing did not turn up any contaminant or a definitive cause for the reported illness. Most dogs recover, but some reports to the FDA involved dogs that died.

After checking the information on the Veterinary Information Network, Lake Forest veterinarian Scott Weldy of Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital said that so far, the reports have been anecdotal, with no evidence tying the problems to the chicken jerky treats.

“Right now they’re basically not blaming anything,” he says. “They’re saying it might be from chicken treats, but they don’t know yet.”

According to the comments on VIN, Weldy says, veterinarians are reporting cases infrequently, “maybe one case every week or two or three.” Some cases have a reasonably suspicious history.

“Right now it is speculation,” he says. “Everybody wants to jump on a cause for everything that happens, and they’ll look for some common link. Cheap treats and cheap foods are by far more popular than more expensive things because people are trying to save money. A lot more people are using cheaper products or are being sold products that are marketed better, so they’re more common in the market. Sometimes those get blamed first when they have nothing to do with anything.”

Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

“I would be skeptical to put a cause-and-effect relationship on the chicken treats right now, but I also wouldn’t feed my dog a chicken jerky treat right now,” he says. “It’s an easy thing to avoid.”

Limit the amount of jerky treats you give to a small dog. If you give your dog chicken jerky treats, pay attention if the dog’s appetite or activity level decreases, if it vomits or has diarrhea, or starts to drink more water and urinate more frequently. Signs can occur within hours to days of giving the treats.

Stop giving the jerky if your dog shows any of these signs, and take him to the veterinarian if the signs are severe or continue for more than a day. Blood tests should be run to check for kidney failure or an increase in liver enzymes and urine tests to check for increased glucose levels. Treatment involves supportive care, such as fluids and electrolyte supplements.