Purina website dismisses consumer concerns
Nestle-Purina, one of the companies blamed for causing the illness and death of thousands of American pets with its top-selling treats Waggin’ Train brand, is feeling the media heat by digging in its heels by coming out with a website devoted entirely to countering the claim that their product kills pets, a website that Nestle-Purina boldly states separates “facts from fiction” regarding their chicken jerky treats.
There is just one problem with Chicken Jerky Facts: it is Nestle-Purina’s version of the facts. Purina’s desperate and hopelessly transparent attempt to dispel their negative image by discrediting criticisms as mythology with cherry-picked FDA snippets and dismissing consumer concern as fiction will succeed only in further alienating their consumer. One wonders, when a manufacturer goes to such embarrassing lengths to redeem itself, what they hope to achieve in such a campaign if the cost of maintaining their image (and their bottom line) comes with a complete loss of consumer confidence.
Problem? What problem?
Purina pet treats have dominated the market for many years, a position they clearly have a stake in defending. Their top treat brand Waggin’ Train, a pseudo-American brand manufactured in China, has been one of the most frequently reported treats to the FDA for problems. Problems, many consumers believe, led to the death of their pets.
Dr. Dan McChesney, Director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the FDA has conceded there is clearly an apparent problem with these treats. The treats are still under intense FDA scrutiny and are being investigated for causing the illness and death of thousands of American pets. A problem, so serious, FDA investigators went to China to investigate the facilities where the products are made.
Good corporate citizenship, what’s that?
It is not worth the risk when the only benefit of chicken jerky treats is that dogs like them. There is no compelling nutritional benefit. In addition, the risk – though relatively small, by all accounts, is that your dog can get sick and may die.
I believe an effective boycott would motivate those who make the chicken jerky treats to either find a solution themselves or to decide to stop selling the product – either way, I’m all for it because meanwhile, more pets won’t be sickened, at least yours won’t be if you’re not buying the product.
The next best solution is for good corporate citizenship and for retailers to stop carrying these products voluntarily until there is a concrete cause for these illnesses found.
FACT vs. FICTION
Listed below are several misperceptions frequently used by the makers of Waggin’ Train chicken jerky dog treats. I know you want to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Read below to learn Waggin’ Train’s version of the “facts” are and why they insist, despite an intense ongoing FDA investigation, that you should continue to purchase their products while the FDA continues to caution consumers about them and have done so since 2007.
Waggin Train FACT: The FDA has conducted extensive testing for years but scientists have been unable to determine a cause for the reported illnesses in dogs.
TRUTH: According to the FDA website, “To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause, but that, the “FDA continues extensive chemical and microbial testing”. To date. In addition, “The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin.” Because a definitive cause has not been determined (yet) does not mean one does not exist, it simply means it has not yet been found.
Waggin Train FACT: The FDA has not advised pet owners to discontinue feeding dogs chicken jerky treats.
TRUTH: Legally, the FDA cannot advise pet parents to “discontinue feeding dogs chicken jerky treats” until the contaminant(s) are found. However, what they are able to do, legally, is warn consumers – which the FDA has done consistently since 2007.
Waggin Train FACT: Over the past five years, the FDA has been notified about reported illnesses in dogs that may have eaten chicken jerky treats…In addition, the FDA states that some of the reported illnesses may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky.
TRUTH: The 2,200 complaints and 360 pet deaths reported to the FDA were of dogs (and cats) that were fed jerky treats. In September 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was again “cautioning consumers” about chicken jerky treats for dogs, because “chicken jerky treats may be associated with illness in dogs“.
Waggin’ Train FACT: According to the FDA, “Samples collected from all over the United States have been tested for a wide variety of substances and to date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses.”
TRUTH: “To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause”, but the FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. According to FDA officials, “The ongoing global investigation is complex, multifaceted and includes a wide variety of experts at the FDA including toxicologists, epidemiologists, veterinary researchers, forensic chemists, microbiologists, field investigators, and senior agency officials”. Furthermore, the FDA has assured consumers that, “Several method development initiatives are underway to investigate additional toxic substances for which no standard methods are currently available”.
Waggin’ Train FACT: The FDA has said, “Chicken jerky products are still safe dog treats”.
TRUTH: Wrong. The FDA has never stated that chicken jerky products are safe. Since 2007, the FDA has become aware of “increasing numbers of illnesses in pets associated with the consumption of jerky pet treats”. In a question, “Why aren’t these products being taken off the market?”, the FDA answered, “That unless a contaminant is detected and have evidence that a product is adulterated, the FDA can only urge pet owners to use caution with regard to jerky pet treat products”, and warn that, “Owners of small dogs must be especially careful to limit the amount of these products”.
In a warning issued in 2009, “FDA believes the continued trend of consumer complaints coupled with the information obtained from Australia warrants an additional reminder and animal health notification.”
Waggin’ Train FACT: The facilities that produce Waggin’ Train treats are modeled after U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for quality and safety.
TRUTH: Wrong again. The USDA has absolutely nothing to do with standards of quality or safety of poultry food facilities in China. In fact, the USDA has routinely refused to allow China to export chicken for human consumption since 2004 because China could not meet U.S. equivalency standards. The jerky treat facilities in China are owned and operated by the Chinese who refused to allow FDA inspectors to take samples of the treats for testing in the US.
Waggin Train FACT: These treats are made in China mainly because there, consumers prefer dark meat over white meat making the supply of quality, white meat chicken more readily available.
TRUTH: Oh, common. Does anyone actually believe that? The treats are made in China for one reason and one reason only – it is cheap.
Waggin Train FACT: The factories are under stringent safety and sanitary guidelines and monitored by a dedicated team of quality control inspectors, who are in the plants where the products are being produced.
TRUTH: If that were true, China would be able to export processed chicken to the US for human consumption – which they are not, because the in USDA audits of Chinese chicken production facilities since 2004 have failed to meet US equivalency standards in 5 out of 6 measures for safety. The Chinese poultry facilities do not operate under the same guidelines as US foods and the “dedicated team of quality control inspectors” are employees of the facilities creating a clear conflict of interest.
Waggin’ Train FACT: Waggin’ Train chicken jerky tenders have two ingredients — chicken breast filets and glycerin.
TRUTH: Wrong again. They have three ingredients: chicken, glycerin and After increased complaints began in 2011, the FDA conducted five plant inspections in China during April 2012; and in one of those investigations, the FDA did identify that one firm “falsified receiving documents for glycerin”, which is an ingredient in most jerky pet treats. When searching for ingredient information on Waggin Train’s website you find this deceptive information:
“Waggin’ Train prides itself on products made of high quality ingredients. Waggin’ Train Chicken Jerky Tenders are made with premium chicken breast filets and have only two main ingredients: natural chicken filets, and glycerin (a natural preservative to retain moisture and texture).”
Two main ingredients? What does that mean? Aren’t pet owners entitled to know what the minor ingredients are? The truth is the third ingredient is: natural flavor. What exactly is natural flavor? That is a trade secret, proprietary information, call it what you want, but it is information they will never reveal.
Waggin’ Train FACT: The FDA has not advised pet owners to discontinue feeding dogs chicken jerky treats.
TRUTH: The FDA reminds pet owners that jerky pet treats are “not necessary for pets”. The FDA has never advised pet owners to feed chicken jerky treats. What the FDA is doing is warning that pet owners who “choose” to feed their pets jerky treats to “watch their pets closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products: decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination.”
The FDA warns that if your pet shows any of these signs to “stop feeding the jerky pet treat product”. In addition, they caution consumers should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours, “as it is important that your pet receive prompt medical attention”. The FDA warns that, “blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). Although most pets appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved pets that have died”. To date, 360 pet deaths associated with feeding jerky treats to dogs (and one cat) have been reported to the FDA.
In addition, the FDA cautions, “pet owners continue to monitor information as it is posted by the FDA”.
Purina doth protest too much, methinks
The quote, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” by William Shakespeare (Hamlet), has come to mean that one can insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what one is saying, a quote that comes to mind when reading Purina’s “Chicken Jerky Facts”.
Reporting a problem
Dr. Bernadette Dunham, director of CVM, shares how you can report a pet food illness on her blog. Cases of animal illness associated with pet foods can be reported electronically through the Safety Reporting Portal, or by calling the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators in your state.
Additional Information from the FDA 2007-2012
- FDA Cautions Consumers about Chicken Jerky Products for Dogs September 26, 2007
- Preliminary Animal Health Notification – Chicken Jerky Products for Dogs December 19, 2008
- FDA Continues to Caution Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products , November 18, 2011
- Caution to Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products, December 13, 2011
- Questions and Answers Regarding Jerky Pet Treats August 15, 2012
- FDA Investigates Animal Illnesses Linked to Jerky Pet Treats, September 14, 2012
Center for Veterinary Medicine
Food and Drug Administration
7519 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855