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Contaminated Chicken from China Conundrum; Drugs in Poultry Cause Allergy in Dogs

Mealbreaker (n.): a nasty, non-edible surprise found in food while it is being eaten; often lawsuit-provoking, sometimes fabricated, always disgusting.

Do you know what’s one of Colonel Sanders 11 ‘Secret Herbs and Spices’ in his original chicken recipe?

Worms!

All kidding aside, the latest food atrocity in China making the rounds is that a woman found worms in her bucket of KFC chicken – lots of ’em.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. this week, food safety lobbyists and analysts debate the sanity of exporting chicken (born and bred in the U.S.) to China for processing only to be sent back to the U.S. for human consumption.

In the Curious Case of Chinese Chicken Import-Export Business, a senior food safety risk analyst worries that 1000’s of dead dogs might be a sign we shouldn’t be importing chicken for man or animal, warns, “There is something in there causing dogs to die. It’s baffled officials here in the U.S. for years,” and asks, “Why on earth would we allow it to come into the U.S. for human consumption?”

Why, indeed.

The next step in the trade negotiations is allowing chicken, raised and processed in China, to be imported into the U.S. for human consumption, just like it has been for years for animal consumption.

What could someday be faced by humans, are the same problems that have affected thousands of U.S. pets for years.

Drug-induced hypersensivity reaction in dogs

The primary problem with imported dog treats that contain drug residues is drug-induced hypersensitivity reactions. The reactions are a major problem, in large part because of their unpredictable nature. If we understood the mechanisms of these reactions better, they might be predictable. Their unpredictable nature also makes mechanistic studies very difficult, especially prospective clinical studies.

As plausible as my theory is, the Food and Drug Administration lamented that although drug hypersensitivity might be the problem they told me there was little they could do because, “the science isn’t there.”

Hypersensitivity reactions are reactions that are unpredictable and that are not dose related. Therefore, the amount of drug residue in the poultry treat is irrelevant.

And those reactions can be severe and even life threatening.

How to determine if your pet has an allergy to a drug?

If your veterinarian thinks your pet had a hypersensitivity reaction to an antibiotic, it is important to assess whether it truly was a hypersensitivity reaction or not. If your pet is allergic or had a non-allergic hypersensitivity reaction, you need to have your pet given an allergological workup and advice by a drug allergy expert as to which antibiotics your pet can safely have as alternatives, should your pet develop an infection.

How do allergies develop in pets?

To develop a drug allergy, it is usually necessary to have received the drug or a closely related one on a previous occasion. Therefore, a previous good tolerance of a drug does not rule out an allergy.

Drug allergy testing is one of the most difficult and tedious subjects in allergy diagnosis. There are, with the exception of penicillins, no commercial test solutions in the right dilutions available.

Drug hypersensitivity: Elusive and enigmatic

One of the most enigmatic areas of allergy is that of drug hypersensitivity reactions; they go far beyond pure immune-mediated reactions and are fascinating since they can mimic many different diseases.

Diagnosis and therapy of drug hypersensitivity is complex, as drugs are able to elicit a diverse array of symptoms ranging from mild to severe and from skin eruptions to anaphylaxis. Thus, drug hypersensitivity still is regarded as a developing area.

What improvements in the safety of pet food can we expect?

While the medical community ponders the complexities of drug allergies, and the Federal government is incapable of regulating the problem of drug residues in food for humans or animals, pets will be exposed to drug residues in their foods.

Despite dwindling news reports about the dangers of dog jerky treats, we should not assume the problem has resolved itself; for as long as U.S. companies import poultry from China, we can expect the problem of poisonous pet treats to continue.

Should we feel safe about U.S. sourced poultry?

Just in case you’re feeling all smug about your squeaky clean U.S. sourced chicken, think again. Case in point – wondering if the icky worms the poor woman found in her KFC chicken in China could ever be in your bucket o’ chicken in the U.S.?

Well, hate to break it to you, but it can happen here too: Roughly half of the chicken samples purchased in supermarkets are contaminated with feces. Chicken feces can harbor round worms, hair worms, tape worms, and other digestive products, chemicals and drugs excreted by the liver, and leftover food, as well as the remains of insects and larvae ingested by the chicken. While thorough cooking kills bacteria, worms, insect and larvae remains it does not eliminate them—it simply cooks ’em!

Now that’s what I call a mealbreaker!

Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and advisor to AAFCO. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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