Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

NEIU Independent

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Chinese Products Endangering Us, Our Pets

By Yesenia Taveras – Staff Writer

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Commercial pet foods, or in this case pet treats, bearing the label ‘Made in China’ are in the news once again for containing harmful ingredients. Since 2007, there have been warnings from the FDA of tainted pet foods that can harm and even kill pets. Certain foods can even transmit harmful substances or bacteria to owners during the feeding process.

This latest round of tainted pet products is primarily chicken jerky treats. The entire compromised list of pet treats includes: chicken jerky (treats, tenders, and strips), sweet potato jerky, and treats where chicken or duck jerky is wrapped around dried fruits, sweet potatoes or yams. Some of the brands behind the allegedly dangerous pet treats are Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch and Milo’s Kitchen, according to the FDA. All of these are manufactured in China even though they are owned by the American Companies Nestle Purina and Del Monte respectively.

From the initial investigation through the present, there have been more than 2,000 reported illnesses confirmed by the FDA as primarily from the above three brands, related to the consumption of the jerky treats. For the past 18 months, there have been 360 dog deaths and one lone cat death in relation to the jerky treats. These are not isolated incidents and illnesses have been reported in all 50 states as well as in six Canadian providences.

The earliest issues of a similar nature go back to 2007. At this time, it was pet foods instead of treats that were killing pets and making them sick. After an extensive investigation by the FDA it was found that wheat gluten and rice proteins being used in the pet food were tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical compound which is typically used as a fire retardant additive as well as being a by-product from pesticides. Why add something like this to pet food in the first place? It is speculated that the goal was to make the pet food appear to have more protein content than it actually did. Melamine is high in nitrogen. Since nitrogen is a major component of protein, one of the more common ways to test for protein levels in the grain industry is by testing the level of nitrogen. If wheat gluten has melamine added, it will appear to have higher protein content and appear to be more nutritious than it actually is. This previous case culminated in charges being filed against several businesses in China and a business in the US, as well as massive recalls.

According to the FDA’s website, the FDA is in charge of regulating pet foods. However, it is stated on their website that, “There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry and grains are considered safe and do not require pre-market approval.” The sudden increase in the number of pet deaths and illnesses raises questions about whether the FDA should be doing more to protect household pets, and what the agency can do when faced with the production and importation of pet foods from overseas.
The simple answer is product demand. An estimated 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011 alone. Even after the previous scandal, companies are still buying meat that may not be safe. The FDA is currently involved in a wide-range investigation with the help of toxicologists to discover the point of contamination. But it has proven an uphill battle. As a US government agency, the FDA has little jurisdiction overseas and was recently denied the ability to acquire any samples when investigators tried to visit several plants in China.
How can you keep your pet safe? Watch for symptoms or erratic behavior that may point to illness. The main symptoms to watch out for are vomiting and diarrhea, sometimes with blood and/or mucus, pancreatitis or gastrointestinal bleeding, frequent urination, increased urine, severe thirst and kidney failure. Opt for treats that state ‘Made in America’. Pet stores like Pet Supplies Plus have conveniently set up a location on their website to search for American made products. Pet Supplies Plus also has an entire section of treats that are only American made and they offer a huge variety of treats at comparable prices. Please note that many pet stores are still carrying the other brands, as they have not been recalled. Avoid buying any jerky treats or pet food items that are made in China. Do not purchase any of the above-mentioned types of treats or brands until the FDA, upon the conclusion of their investigation, declares them safe.

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