Spotlight aimed at pet treat dangers

Brown warns Chinese ingredients may be hazardous.

Sen. Sherrod Brown said he’s worried that pet products labeled as coming from the United States actually contain potentially hazardous ingredients from China.

He’s worried in the aftermath of the reported deaths of 1,000 dogs linked to pet treats made in China. As of May 1, the FDA has received some 4,800 reports of pet illnesses ranging from kidney problems to convulsions to gastrointestinal distress. In the aftermath of those reports, pet food chains PetSmart and Petco announced that they planned to voluntarily stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

At a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Tuesday, Brown grilled officials from the FDA about whether the labeling of so-called “Made in the USA” pet products was accurate. While the U.S. does not permit raw chicken imports from China, the USDA last year approved allowing chicken slaughtered elsewhere to be processed in China then sent to the United States.

“While no such chicken has entered our shores yet, it’s possible that very soon this processed chicken could end up on our dinner tables and in our school lunchrooms,” Brown said.

The Ohio Democrat said he’s also concerned that a recent outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in the United States might be linked to pet food produced in China. Shaun Kennedy, an Associate Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota, said food produced in China has been “implicated” in the outbreak, though it’s still being investigated.

Tracey Forfa, deputy director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said the FDA continued to investigate the outbreak of canine illnesses. Tests so far have been inconclusive, though the FDA has tested for everything from salmonella to pesticide contamination to antibiotic contamination to mold.

She urged pet owners to consider avoiding the treats.

Brown suggested that more should be done. He held up a package of dog treats described as made in the United States. “Do you know enough to be able to say all of the ingredients come from the United States?” he asked. Forfa, pressed repeatedly, could not say yes.

“We work very hard to ensure that the American pet food supply is safe,” she said.

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