Any pet owner will tell you that pets are undeniably a part of the family. Everyone wants the best for their furry four-legged friend, and it is emotionally painful to watch them when they get sick or when their lives end. Even worse is when their already too-short lives are cut even shorter due to illness caused by something that was believed to be good for them. So, in response to consumer concerns that jerky treats manufactured in China have been the cause of thousands of pet illnesses and deaths, pet-supply chain Petco has decided to stop all sales of Chinese-produced dog and cat treats.
The FDA targeted the treats after receiving more than 4,800 complaints of pet illnesses, including the deaths, after pets ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats from China. Meanwhile the number of cases continued to climb, with illness reported in more than 5,600 dogs, 25 cats and 3 humans as of October.
On January 7, Petco announced that it has discontinued sales of pet treats from China at its 1,300 stores nationwide because of speculations that the treats may be linked to over 1,000 dog deaths in the U.S. since 2007.
Despite testing, the FDA has not yet been able to determine the cause of illnesses, and still no definitive link has been found between the illnesses/deaths and the treats. Still, the treats were targeted after more than 4,800 complaints of illnesses and death after pets were fed the jerky treats from China. Investigations are still ongoing.
Even though there have been no definitive links yet made, with consumers growing more wary about what they give their four-legged family members, Petco made the decision for the pull and has been replacing them with treats manufactured in the U.S. or other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.
With multiple pet food recalls each year due to salmonella, mold, and more, there has recently been a growing movement of pet parents who have ditched canned and bagged pet food all together, and have either started cooking for their fur babies (a growing number of pet food cookbooks are available online and in bookstores), or have even started their pets on raw food diets.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says initial tests have not connected the Chinese jerky and rawhide treats to the illnesses, but the San Diego-based company and its rival PetSmart both vowed in May to ban the snacks.
Petco is the first national pet retailer to pull the treats from its 1,300 stores. Phoenix-based PetSmart Inc. said Monday that it plans to have them off shelves at its roughly 1,300 stores by March.
John Sturm, Petco’s vice president of pet nutrition and merchandising, told CBS News in an email that the company has been “actively reducing our China-made assortment and expanding our American-made offerings for several years now.”
He also noted that, “while there is no direct, definitive link identified by the FDA between the reported illnesses in cats and dogs and China-made treats, as a trusted source to our customers, we decided pet parents’ concerns about the safety of China treats was significant enough to pull these products from our shelves.”
Symptoms may occur within hours or days after eating the treats, the FDA warned, and can include decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood or mucus), increased water consumption and/or increased urination. In severe cases, pets may be diagnosed with pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding, and kidney failure.
The FDA said it has tested for a wide range of contaminants including Salmonella, pesticides, rodenticides, mold, arsenic, led, antibiotics and other chemicals, but has so far been unable to determine the cause of the illnesses.
Sturm said Petco treats are now made in the U.S. or places such as the Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and South America. The company risked tens of millions of dollars by changing treat vendors, he said.