Last week, federal animal health officials issued a warning regarding jerky treats for pets that have sickened over 3,600 dogs and ten cats. In addition, nearly 600 pets have died.
The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has not yet been able to identify the substance that is causing the problems, but the treats in question have a common denominator - they were all manufactured in China.
In 2007, more than 5,300 pet food products were recalled after ingredients sourced from China sickened thousands, and killed hundreds of dogs and cats. In the wake of this latest announcement, many are wondering how this scenario could possibly be repeated.
A recent post on Facebook read "Have we learned nothing from 2007? How is it possible that pet owners are still buying pet food products from China? What will it take to turn Americans into educated consumers?"
It's a rhetorical question, but I will try to answer it anyway.
As global commodities prices began to steadily increase, many pet food manufacturers began to look for ways to preserve their shrinking profit margins. While little could be done about rising ingredient costs, labor costs were fair game. Many U.S. companies moved their manufacturing facilities to China, while keeping the corporate entity in the United States.
A quick glance at the packaging reveals a company name and domestic address that leads even the most educated consumer to believe that all operations are happening on U.S. soil. Close inspection of the packaging, however, will often reveal the words "Product of China".
Manufacturers are quick to defend this practice by insisting that that the plants are staffed by an American management team and complies with USDA regulations. They are quick to point out that what they are doing is not illegal. In my opinion, however, it is unethical, and has tricked many consumers into believing that familiar brands are being produced locally and safely.
Please take extra care to to inspect your pet's food and treats for any evidence that they are being made in China. Look beyond the name and address of the U.S. corporate entity for the words "Product of China." Bully sticks, rawhides and pig ears should be inspected as well.
Don't be afraid to call the makers of your pet's food to ask if any of their ingredients are sourced from China. By asking questions and demanding transparency, we pet parents can hold the pet food industry more accountable for the health and safety of our animal companions.