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Chicken jerky treats linked to deaths of 360 dogs, 1 cat

Over the past 18 months, federal health officials have said claims of illnesses linked to chicken jerky treats imported from China have now reached more than 2,200, including reports that at least 360 dogs and one cat have reportedly died after eating the treats.

The Food and Drug Administration released a few hundred complaints that were received by its District Consumer Complaint Coordinators between January 1, 2007, and July 2, 2012. The incomplete list does not include reports received through FDA's electronic Safety Reporting Portal. The Waggin' Train brand had the most complaints, followed by repeated listings for Milo's Kitchen and Kingdom Pets. All three companies said their treats are safe, and some have conducted independent testing.

In its investigation, FDA inspected five Chinese plants, but won't say which brands were made at those plants. The administration says it found falsified documents at one plant, which were said to be related to an ingredient in the jerky treats. Chinese authorities seized the products and suspended exports of those treats. FDA says it also found problems with equipment at other plants, which were later resolved. A fifth inspection report was not released.

FDA recommended pet owners avoid the jerky products entirely. “FDA is reminding pet owners that jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets,” agency officials said in an online report.

FDA also said it will begin testing the treats to see whether irradiation of the products may have contributed to the reported treat-related symptoms, ranging from diarrhea and vomiting to kidney failure, Fanconi syndrome and death. US regulations allow petfood, including pet treats, to be irradiated up to a maximum of 50 kiloGrays to provide microbial disinfection or elimination of other pathogens.

However, repeated tests conducted at FDA laboratories, at the agency's Veterinary Response Laboratory Network and by other labs have failed to detect any microbiological, chemical or other contaminants in high enough levels to cause the symptoms in the pets. “To date, none of the testing results have revealed an association between a causative agent and the reported illnesses,” FDA said. FDA says it will continue to investigate.

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