HILLIARD, OH— Following an increase in tainted pet treats from China leading to animal deaths and illnesses, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) outlined why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must take quick action to protect consumers and pet owners. He was joined by Holly McCutcheon, whose four year-old dog, Jack, developed a rash and fell ill after eating chicken jerky pet treats. McCutcheon contacted Brown after she saw an FDA warning connecting the dog’s illness with tainted chicken jerky pet treats imported from China.

“One of my most important jobs as Senator is fulfilling constituent services—from helping Ohioans cut red tape to assisting with government resources. Holly wrote me a letter describing how her dog, Jack, fell ill after eating chicken jerky treats that were made in China,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, their story is becoming too familiar—increasing amounts of tainted pet treats imported from China are leading to deaths and illnesses in our nation’s pets. We’ve seen the same story play out with the food we eat—where too often we simply don’t know where ingredients come from. It’s critical that the FDA also take swift action to protect consumers and pets from these tainted foods.

“That’s why, I’m calling on the FDA to step up its investigation of the importation of pet food—especially from China, where the possibility of food contamination is high,” Brown added. “Nationwide, approximately 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet. For so many Ohioans, including the many dog owners here today, caring for one is very personal. Families need to know that food and treats they purchase at local retailers are safe for their pets to consume.”

Brown sent a letter to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, urging the FDA to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet treats and ensure that they are pulled from store shelves. Brown asked the FDA to explain its current procedures for notifying consumers and retailers of pet food safety breaches.

Brown was also be joined by Karen Minton, Ohio state director of the Humane Society of the United States, at the Capital Area Humane Society in Hilliard to call on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to step up its investigation of pet food and treats, particularly those imported from countries like China, where the potential for contamination is high.

“The pet food recalls of 2007 exposed serious issues in our pet food supply. At HSUS alone, we received over 6,000 calls to our hotline in a short period of time from panicked pet owners who were concerned about what they were feeding their pets,” said Karen Minton. “While progress has been made, regular recalls of contaminated or unsafe pet food and treats continue, leaving pet owners concerned about which products they can trust. We commend Senator Brown for continuing to push this important issue to protect pets.”

Brown has been a strong advocate in the Senate for food safety, and was instrumental in passing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, he passed legislation to give the FDA new authority to recall dangerous foods, improve the safety of imported products, and establish a comprehensive traceability system to quickly and accurately trace the source of tainted food in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.  

The full letter to the FDA is below.

The Honorable Margaret H. Hamburg, M.D.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993
Dear Commissioner Hamburg:
It has come to my attention that certain pet treats may be unfit for pets to consume.  Some pet owners in my home state of Ohio have reported that certain chicken jerky treats, particularly those made in China, have caused their dogs to suffer from symptoms such as decreased appetite and activity, vomiting, renal failure, and in some cases, death.  

I understand that the FDA is examining complaints from consumers and veterinarians and is working to determine the contaminant in these treats. To date, the FDA has not identified a contaminant and therefore they remain on the shelves of grocery markets and pet stores across the country.  The concern over pet food contamination is not without basis.  In recent years there have been sizable recalls of foreign-made pet food products due to contaminants including salmonella and melamine.    

I urge you to promptly pursue efforts to find the contaminant in these pet foods, alert customers of the dangers of these products, and make sure the products found harmful are pulled from the retail market.
Additionally, in your response, please explain the FDA’s current procedure for notifying consumers, retailers, and manufacturers of pending investigations into possible pet food safety breaches.  Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA’s website? How are retailers and manufacturers notified of potential concerns and what action is required on behalf of each party in response?  

Thank you for all your efforts to protect public health and the safety of our nation’s pets.  I look forward to your swift actions and response.