Hearing about dogs and cats getting sick and dying from jerky treats this past fall made me angry that more wasn’t being done to protect our pets from harm. Why weren’t all jerky treats recalled from store shelves? Why isn’t the U.S. government doing something to protect our pets?
In October, Dogster reported that 600 dog deaths were linked to jerky treats. And last month, Dogster vet Eric Barchas shared similar sentiments that more should be done to protect pets. He recommended dog parents avoid jerky treats altogether and give carrots as a healthy alternative.
It turns out there is some movement toward protecting animals from food-borne illnesses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing stricter regulations to strengthen the safety of pet food, under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
According to Shelly Burgess, a spokesperson for the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, the proposed law is a shift away from a reactive stance of responding to safety issues whenever they arise, and instead takes a more preventive approach toward animal food safety. The rule proposes new procedures for animal food processing that bolster cleanliness and pest control measures, reduce the risk of cross-contamination, and ensure that the food is more nutritionally balanced.
Burgess said the nutritional standards were added because pets are dependent on their human caretakers for their food, and can’t supplement their diets if their main meal doesn’t provide enough nutrition. The new standards ensure that pet food will be nutritionally balanced.
The proposed rule protects humans as well as animals because it reduces the risk of illness from handling pet food, for example, that’s contaminated with Salmonella.
The FDA is collecting comments from the public on this rule through the end of February 2014; it would not take effect until 60 days after the rule is published.
In the meantime, the FDA reports that it’s working with scientists to identify the cause of the contamination in jerky treats, but has not been able to determine the source.
Because of what Dr. Barchas wrote, and because it still hasn’t been determined what exactly is wrong with the jerky treats that have sickened and killed pets, I’ve avoided them altogether. I figure “better safe than sorry” when it comes to my dog’s welfare. I’ve also paid more attention to where the food and treats I buy my dog are manufactured. Just because the label claims the food is made in the USA, doesn’t mean that the ingredients could originate from another country, such as China.
Some pet supply stores, such as Pet Food Express, have stopped carrying products containing ingredients considered harmful, including: animal fat, meat and bone meal, BHA, BHT, propylene glycol and artificial colorings and flavors
If you still have concerns about what to feed your dog, I suggest you ask your veterinarian for advice.