As Reports of Treat-Related Pet Illnesses Decline, FDA Scales Back Update Schedule
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February 19, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an update on its ongoing investigation into illnesses associated with jerky treats, but it likely isn't the one that pet owners wanted.

The agency says it will continue its investigation, but due to a decline in illness reports, it will only update the public on an annual basis, instead of bi-annually.

As of Sept. 30, 2014, the FDA received about 5,000 complaints of illness related to chicken, duck, or sweet potato jerky treats, most of which were imported from China. These reports involve more than 5,800 dogs, 25 cats, and three people. More than 1,000 dogs died.

The agency has been receiving complaints from pet owners since 2007. As of May 2014, the FDA received about 4,800 complaints, but saw a sharp drop between then and September when only 270 reports were submitted.

"This shift in reporting cycles does not mean that the FDA is reducing its effort to investigate the cause of these illnesses," officials wrote in a statement. "The agency continues to devote significant resources to its investigation, and will post non-routine updates if notable events occur."

While the FDA believes that there is a link between sick pets and jerky treats produced in China, officials have been unable to pinpoint a cause. It has tested thousands of jerky treats looking for salmonella, mold, pesticides, toxic medals, illegal antibiotics, nephrotoxins and other contaminates, but has come up empty. Federal officials have inspected Chinese factories and consulted academics, research labs, foreign governments and the pet food industry itself, but officials continue to be stumped.

The agency has been investigating for 2,270 days.

The FDA may not have answers, but there has been enough outcry that both PetSmart and Petco have said they will no longer sell treats that are made in China. Petco finished its phase-out in January, but has not previously said if the prohibition of China-made treats also includes treats made with ingredients sourced from the country. PetSmart said its phase-out will be completed  this spring.

The FDA continues to advise against feeding pets jerky treats until they have concluded the investigation, but ask that pet owners report any illnesses.

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