Petco’s announcement earlier this week that it had finished pulling all China-made cat and dog treats off its shelves and from its online store isn’t really news; the retailer is following up on its May 2014 promise to pull the products from its 1,300-plus stores after numerous reports of illness or death of pets that ate such treats.
What’s newsworthy about the Petco notice is that this is the first announcement or information of any kind regarding the China-sourced jerky pet treats case since June 2014, when another pet retailer, Canada’s Global Pet Foods, announced it was also removing treats made in China from its shelves. (PetSmart had made a similar announcement shortly after Petco did.)
Just before the initial retailer announcements in May, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update on its investigation into pet illnesses related to jerky pet treats. While, unfortunately, the agency was no closer to finding a specific cause for the illnesses, despite the investigation having been under way for several years—FDA said it had been receiving and tracking complaints related to jerky pet treats since 2007—at least the update was thorough and credible, according to experts such as David A. Dzanis, DVM, PhD, DACVN, CEO or Regulatory Discretion Inc. and Petfood Insights columnist.
Yet, that’s the last we’ve heard on this matter from FDA. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise; it’s a government agency, after all, infamous for moving at the speed of a sloth. And before this update in May 2014, its most recent official update on the jerky pet treat investigation had been in October 2013. That was seven months between updates; we’ve already surpassed that amount of time in waiting for another one.
Perhaps the delay is due not only to FDA’s inherent slowness but also because the agency realizes that the marketplace has moved on. Major pet retailers are no longer carrying such products, and pet owners who want to pamper their pets with treats—a continually growing number, by all accounts—have many other alternatives to choose from instead. That includes locally sourced jerky pet treats as well as treats featuring new formats and textures, functional ingredients, natural ingredients, the lack of certain types of ingredients, you name it.
Still, it would be good to know if FDA has made any further progress in its investigation. For owners who lost beloved pets or watched their pets suffer illness from eating jerky pet treats from China, any news would undoubtedly be welcome.