FDA urges vet involvement in food recalls

In 2011, the FDA saw an increase in the number of complaints it received of dog illnesses associated with consumption of chicken jerky products imported from China.

Chicken jerky products have been on the FDA’s radar since 2007, when it issued a cautionary warning to consumers about the jerky products. In 2008, the FDA issued a Preliminary Animal Health Notification, but complaints about the product began to drop off during the latter part of 2009 and most of 2010.

Those complaints started to rise again in 2011, prompting the FDA to release another cautionary update about chicken jerky products imported from China.

While consumers can report complaints of dog illnesses, the FDA told veterinarians during the AAHA Yearly Conference in Denver, Colo. that the veterinarian plays a vital role in food recalls.

"We need veterinarians involved in this," said Anamaria Castiglia, DVM, veterinary medical officer with the FDA. "When we get consumer complaints, a lot of the times they might be more exaggerated than they really are."

Castiglia said that many times, consumers may leave out details about the case.

"We really appreciate it when the vet hospital submits the report because then we have a full description of what is happening," Castiglia said. "One well-documented case can cause a recall."

Consumer reports are often difficult because they have so much emotion in them, Castiglia said, whereas a report from a veterinarian will include blood samples and other quantitative data that can help to determine what is going on in a given situation.


Castiglia said that although many doges appear to have recovered in chicken jerky-related reports, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.

"The kinds of reports we’re getting are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and increased urination," Castiglia said.

The FDA is working to investigate the source of the illnesses, Castiglia said.

"We have some boots in China going to the firms to evaluate," Castiglia said. "It’s not a clear situation. It’s not clear at all."

Castiglia told veterinarians that their participation is vital helping clarify situations like the chicken jerky one.

"You’re our eyes and ears out there," she said. "We can really work well together to help you maintain pet safety and pet health in your practice."