U.S. Senator Brown Presses the FDA Over Inadequate Response to Tainted Chicken Jerky Inquiry

A press release today from U.S. Senator Brown spells out his demand that the FDA get off their ass and give him a proper answer to his to his inquiry last month regarding the tainted treats.

In a letter sent to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Sen. Brown asked the FDA, “to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet foods, alert customers of the dangers of these products, and make sure the products found harmful are pulled from the retail market. Additionally, in your response, please explain the FDA’s current procedure for notifying consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of pending investigations into possible pet food safety breaches.  Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA’s website? How are retailers and manufacturers notified of potential concerns and what action is required on behalf of each party in response?”

Moving at glacial speed in response to Brown’s inquiry, four weeks later the FDA sent him a reply, which can only be described as an insult to Senator Brown and pet parents across America, the FDA gave him nothing but the same scripted stale information they have foisting on the public for the past four months.

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Meanwhile, it was revealed by Jonel Aleccia, a reporter at MSNBC and the TODAY show, through documents she obtained from the FDA through the Freedom of Information Act that the FDA has known all along which companies were responsible for killing pets. Namely, Nestle-Purina’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brands and DelMonte’s Milo’s Kitchen brand treats.

Today, Sen. Brown issued a press release in direct response to the woefully inadequate reply from the FDA to his request for information:

Tainted Chicken Jerky Treats Are Still on the Shelves of Many Retailers Despite Numerous Reports of Sickened Pets

CLEVELAND, OH— U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is demanding additional answers and action from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after receiving an inadequate response to his inquiry last month regarding tainted pet treats. Last month, following an increase in tainted pet treats from China connected to animal deaths and illnesses, Brown urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take quick action to protect consumers and pet owners. He sent a letter to the Commissioner of the FDA, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, urging the FDA to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet treats and ensure that they are pulled from store shelves. Brown asked the FDA to explain its current procedures for notifying consumers and retailers of pet food safety breaches. The FDA’s response can be seen here.

“The FDA’s response is inadequate—especially for the dozens of Ohio families whose dogs have died or have been seriously sickened as a result of eating tainted, Chinese-made chicken jerky treats. It’s the FDA’s job to ensure that these treats and other animal foods are safe for consumption,” Brown said. “The FDA needs to demonstrate that it is doing all it can to identify the possible contaminant in these treats and that it is working to ensure that contaminated jerky is pulled from the shelves. I’m urging the FDA to expedite this testing, and to complete the 153 tests still pending as soon as possible. I will continue to press the FDA on this issue because Ohio consumers shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their pets’ food.”

At a recent news conference at the Cleveland Animal Protective League, Brown was joined by Kevin Thaxton, whose 10 year-old pug, Chancey, passed away unexpectedly after eating chicken jerky pet treats. After Mr. Thaxton’s new five-month old puppy, Penny suffered life-threatening kidney failure after eating the same treats, the Thaxton’s saw an FDA warning connecting the illnesses between the two dogs: tainted chicken jerky pet treats imported from China. Brown was also joined at the Cleveland Animal Protective League by veterinarian Dr. Brian Forsgren, and Karen Minton, the Humane Society of the United States’ Ohio state director, to call on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step up its investigation of pet food and treats, particularly those imported from countries like China, where the potential for contamination is high. A Brooklyn Heights woman, Terry Safranek, lost her 9-year-old fox terrier, Samson, in late January. Only after seeing a story on the evening news did she realize that her dog’s death was likely due to his consumption of the same tainted chicken jerky treats.

Brown has been a strong advocate in the Senate for food safety, and was instrumental in passing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, he passed legislation to give the FDA new authority to recall dangerous foods, improve the safety of imported products, and establish a comprehensive traceability system to quickly and accurately trace the source of tainted food in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.

The new letter to the FDA is below.

The Honorable Margaret H. Hamburg, M.D.

Commissioner

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20993

Dear Commissioner Hamburg:

Thank you for your response to my letter of February 6th. While I appreciate your work to investigate the safety of chicken jerky pet treats produced in China, many of the questions posed in the letter were not addressed.

As you know, several of my constituents have contacted me concerned with a possible connection between pet deaths and severe illness, including kidney failure, and chicken jerky pet treats. I would like to know what additional steps FDA is taking beyond usual testing outlined in your letter to accelerate the process of identifying contaminants.

My February 6th letter also requested information regarding FDA’s guidelines and process for informing consumers when contaminants are found in pet foods and treats. It is important that FDA make every effort to notify consumers of products under scrutiny so they can make informed decisions at the store. Currently, consumers have no way of knowing that certain treats are under review and could potentially harm their pets. While testing continues, what is FDA doing to inform consumers of problems associated with these treats? Presently, consumers who want to learn about contaminated pet food must visit the FDA’s website. Even then, the available information is responsive – addressing previously reported cases. Are there better, pro-active ways for the FDA to inform consumers of product inspections and potential recalls than simply listing this information on its website?

From toys with high-lead content to contaminated drugs and now chicken jerky treats, all too often products made in China, which do not meet basic U.S. safety standards, wind up in American stores, shopping carts, and homes. These sub-standard, imported products undermine the standards to which U.S. companies adhere and threaten the health and safety of American families.

When, in 2007, a similar Chinese pet food product was found to be contaminated, the FDA worked swiftly with manufacturers to remove dangerous products from store shelves. While, in this instance, the first indication that a dangerous contaminant was being introduced into the food system was linked to pet food made in China, further investigation revealed use of the same, dangerous food additive in foods intended for human consumption. This example leaves no question: identifying contaminants is critical to both animal and human health.

With this sense of urgency in mind, I would like to know what procedures and safety measures the FDA hast taken to ensure imported pet foods and treats from China are safe. In your response, please include details of all overseas inspection of processing facilities, food safety actions at our nation’s borders, as well as efforts to mitigate potential transfer to human foods.

Again, I urge to you expedite your review process and identify the contaminant in these pet treats as soon as possible. As I understand it, FDA has received hundreds of complaints from consumers across the country with reported illnesses and deaths of their pets. For pet owners in Ohio and nationwide, a thorough review and identification of the contaminants in these Chinese-made treats would provide pet owners with peace of mind while protecting their pets’ health.

I look forward to your response.

Congressional Leaders Demand FDA Action to Protect Dogs from Poisonous Jerky Treats (poisonedpets.com)
Secret FDA document reveals test results of chicken jerky treats (poisonedpets.com)
With over 400 new reports of tainted treats, Senator Brown urges the FDA to speed it up…again (poisonedpets.com)
Consumers desperate for answers clutch at straws to stop jerky treats from poisoning more dogs (poisonedpets.com)
Senator Brown Speaks to the Senate, Urging Swift Action on Deadly Dog Treats (poisonedpets.com)
More dogs die as poisonous jerky treats remain on store shelves (poisonedpets.com)
Chicken Jerky Pet Treat Alert (poisonedpets.com)
Nestle Purina pulls compensation offers “off the table” for Waggin’ Train deaths (poisonedpets.com)
A grieving family wants chicken jerky dog treats to be taken off the market. (poisonedpets.com)

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Mollie Morrissette

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