The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should use the laws established by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act to prevent potentially harmful Chinese chicken jerky dog treats from reaching the market, said consumer group Food & Water Watch on Wednesday in a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg.
The letter, co-signed by Mollie Morrissette of PoisonedPets.com and Susan Thixton of TruthAboutPetFood.com, addresses FDA’s inability to find the cause of more than 1,000 complaints from U.S. pet owners regarding sick or dead dogs who had eaten chicken jerky treats made in China. The brands under scrutiny include Nestle Purina’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek chicken jerky treats, as well as Milo’s Kitchen treats made by Del Monte Corp.
Since 2007, FDA has released consumer alerts about the treats 3 times, most recently last November. In July, the agency released data on 5 1/2 years of testing, consisting of 285 laboratory tests on jerky samples purchased around the country. Finding nothing conclusive, it has been unable to recommend a recall.
Last week, word came that Chinese authorities prevented FDA inspectors from collecting jerky samples for independent analysis during an April trip to four dog treat plants in China. According to NBC News, reports indicate that the plants conducted little to no laboratory testing, but inspectors did not find any obvious violations and came home from the trip empty-handed.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has sat in legislative limbo at the White House Office of Management and Budget since President Obama signed it in January 2011, but in its letter Food & Water Watch argued that the passing of the law gives the FDA the authority to take “more substantive measures to deal with this issue.”
Section 306 of FSMA gives FDA the power to refuse any food from a foreign supplier or government that does not allow U.S. officials to inspect their facilities. Food & Water Watch said that preventing inspectors from independently analyzing samples should constitute a refusal of inspection on the part of the Chinese government.
“The law clearly defines what steps can be and should be taken if the FDA is unable to determine the safety of products imported to the U.S.,” Morrissette said in an email to Food Safety News.
In addition, FDA could use its authority under Section 211 to require stores selling Chinese-made chicken treats to post warnings to consumers who may be unaware of the alleged danger. As Food & Water Watch pointed out in its letter, few pet owners or veterinarians are currently aware of the issue at all, as the warnings only get posted on the FDA’s website.
The letter to Commissioner Hamburg came Wednesday — 2 days before Food & Water Watch will hand-deliver to Hamburg and FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor a petition signed by 18,000 individuals asking the agency to issue a recall of all Chinese chicken jerky treats.© Food Safety News