FDA confirms boots on ground in China

April 11, 2012
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials are on the ground in China, actively investigating complaints of canine illness associated with chicken jerky products imported from China.

Anamaria Castiglia, DVM, veterinary medical officer with the FDA, told veterinarians at the AAHA Yearly Conference in Denver that the FDA is working to investigate the source of the illnesses.

"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."

In 2011, the FDA saw an increase in the number of complaints it received of canine 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 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.

"This chicken jerky episode has really opened up our eyes and we’re being a lot more careful than in 2007," Castiglia said.

In 2011, there were 1,146 complaints to the FDA, many of which had to do with chicken jerky products, Castiglia said.

"The kinds of reports we’re getting are decreased appetite, decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea, increased water consumption and increased urination," Castiglia said. "We’ve really been working hard on this."

Symptoms often resemble a kidney problem, and may resemble Fanconi-like symptoms.

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

According to msnbc.com, FDA records showed that a log of owner and veterinarian complaints of harm referenced at least three popular brands of jerky treats: Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch and Milo’s Kitchen Home-style Dog Treats.

Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch products are produced by Nestle Purina PetCare Co. According to MSNBC, import data compiled by the firm

ImportGenius showed that those treats are produced and supplied by JOC Great Wall Corp. Ltd. of Nanjing, China.

Veterinarians play a vital role in food recalls, Castiglia said. While consumers can report complaints of canine illnesses, veterinarian involvement is highly important.

"We need veterinarians involved in this," Castiglia said. "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 a 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 asks veterinarians to track the following characteristics in filing a report to prove that an illness has been caused by food:

· Signalment

· History

· Presenting complaint and clinical signs

· Other exposures

· Other foods besides the "focus food"

· Product label (product name, lot code, and best by date)

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

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