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ConsumerWatch: FDA Handling Of Pet Treat Complaints Questioned

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Dog treats (CBS)

Dog treats (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Thousands of pet owners nationwide are furious that the treats they believe sickened or killed their pets are still on store shelves, and now a well-known congressman is calling for an investigation into the FDA’s handling of the issue.

“I’m holding poison toxins” said Steve Herman as he held up the bag of chicken jerky treats he believes almost killed his dog Penelope. “I think they should make whoever made them eat them themselves” said Janie Carroll. She lost her beloved dog Benji after he ate another brand of chicken jerky treats.

Complaints to the FDA date back to 2007, but it wasn’t until this year that the agency finally inspected the Chinese plants linked to the illnesses.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is calling on the inspector general to investigate the FDA’s handling of the toxic treats.

“Can you imagine if this was happening to people and the government said gee we just cant figure this out, the people who run the agency would be out” Kucinich said.

He calls their delayed factory inspections incomplete because Chinese manufactures refused to release samples to the FDA for testing. Then they were told that the manufacturers hadn’t received any complaints when the FDA itself has said that they have forwarded most of these complaints to the manufacturers” said Kucinich.

He’s referring to the thousands of complaints from dog owners to the FDA. Many are now online and detail the horrific deaths endured by dogs after eating various brands of dog treats made in China. There are nearly a dozen different popular brands named. Some of the most commonly named brands on the list include Nestle Purina’s Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch, Del Monte’s Milo’s Kitchen, Dogwells, and Kingdom Pets.

After 5 years of testing, the FDA said it has been unable to detect the contaminant making pets sick. “It is important to understand that unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take. The regulations don’t allow for products to be removed based on complaints alone” said Tamara N Ward of FDA Office of Public Affairs.

Kucinich counters “The FDA has the authority to institute an import ban. They’re not doing that. Their letting these products sit on the market.”

Manufacturers and distributors said the treats remain on store shelves because, the “FDA (has not) recommended any recalls of chicken jerky products” … “no contaminants have ever been found.”

A CBS 5 viewer, too distraught to speak on camera after losing her beloved dog, said in an email that the clerks at the store where she bought her treats assured her “the FDA would never let tainted treats be sold.”

Companies including Pet Smart and Del Monte Corp, which makes Milo’s Kitchen treats, contend the treats are “safe to feed as directed…occasionally and in small quantities.”

Many pet food distributors including Del Monte Corp., Nestle Purina and Dogswell said they do their own independent testing and have found no cause for concern.

To view the full company responses and the FDA response, click here.

Pet owners can submit complaints to the FDA at fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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