News, Nutrition for Dogs

Chinese Imported Dog Treats Cause Of Canine Deaths

Jerky treats from China have made news headlines again because more pups have lost their lives. We decided it was time to learn why this keeps happening. What we found is certainly eye-opening and scary. 

For those of you who might be asking if we use Chinese jerky in our treats, the answer is a resounding NO! One of our signature treats has beef jerky but it’s handcrafted and locally sourced from a small company in rural Michigan.  

Speaking of beef, let’s begin. Remember when the little old lady in the Wendy's commercial asked “where’s the beef” she just wanted a bigger burger. Today, that same question leads us all the way to China.  

Beef is one of the commodities in a high-stakes trade deal between the U.S. and China and may indirectly be responsible for thousands of dogs dying in this country and Australia. Chinese poultry, the other commodity, is likely the killing agent. 

As of May 1, 2014, the FDA has received almost 5,000 complaints of illness in pets that ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats, nearly all of which are imported from China.

The reports involve more than 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, three people and include 1,000 canine deaths.

This is a complicated and twisted tale that raises many other questions like why the U.S. continues to import these products or why can’t top-notch FDA specialists figure out the cause. There’s more to this story and if chickens could talk, maybe we’d have those answers.

Background

In the past ten years, there has been a dramatic increase in the import of pet food from China. That’s because people in China prefer dark meat poultry which leaves a massive amount of light meat available for export.

From 2003 to 2011, the volume of pet food exports to the U.S. from China has grown 85-fold. Nearly 86 million pounds of pet food came from China in 2011 alone. What’s more, pet treats, including jerky, are now the fastest growing segment of the pet food market.

Drugs

In January 2013, chicken jerky recalls were sparked by the New York State Department of Agriculture when they found some products adulterated with antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. as well as amantadine, an antiviral and anti-parkinsonian medication.

Manufacturing Plant Corruption

After inspecting five high volume jerky producing plants in China, the FDA identified one that falsified documents regarding their use of glycerin. Why is this significant? It’s because glycerin is a toxic by-product in making biodiesel fuel and it has been found in nearly every Chinese jerky treat’s list of ingredients.

Glycerin

Got your chemistry book handy? Glycerin is a sugar and filler. It’s classified as a humectant which means it absorbs water or moisture. It’s used in pet treats so the manufacturer can sell you the weight in water. Glycerin binds the water so as to disguise the water as a solid treat or food, and inhibit mold growth. To make a food soft, moist or semi-moist, glycerin makes up about 10-18% of the product. It’s about 60% as sweet as sugar so the treat maker benefits since dogs can taste sweetness.

Glycerin Market

Now it’s time to grab that economics book. Right now there is an extraordinary amount of biofuel glycerin coming into the market since one gallon of biodiesel yields one pound of glycerin. At this rate, the glycerin market is forced to find new uses for this product. Animal food is where it’s being dumped. 

Below are some of the brand names that contain glycerin: 

  • Beggin’ Strips
  • Beneful (Baked Delights and Snackin’ Slices)
  • Bil-Jac  (liver treats for dogs and Gooberlicious)
  • Blue Buffalo (Blue Bits, Blue Bites, Blue Stix, Super Bars, Blue Bones, Wild Bites, Blue Wilderness Wild Bites)
  • Blue Dog Bakery (Softies, Perfect Trainers)
  • Buddy Biscuits (Soft and Chewy, Chewy Tricky Trainers)
  • Busy Bones
  • Canyon Creek Ranch
  • Carolina Prime
  • Cesar Treats
  • Dentastix (from Pedigree)
  • Good Bites (from Pedigree)
  • Halo (Spot’s Chew)
  • Milo’s Kitchen
  • Pur Luv (Chewy Bites, Little Trix, Grande Bones)
  • Purina Pro Plan (various treats including Roasted Slices)
  • Real Meat Jerky Treats (Jerky Bites, Bitz, Long Stix, Large Bitz)
  • Solid Gold (Beef Jerky, Turkey Jerky, Lamb Jerky, Tiny Tots)
  • Snausages
  • T-Bonz
  • Waggin Train
  • Wellness (Wellpet, Wellbites)
  • Zukes  (Hip Action, Natural Purrz, Jerky Naturals, Mini Naturals)

Natural vs. Natural Glycerin

Until recently, most glycerin for pet food was produced as a byproduct of soap making and considered safe for pet consumption. Pet food makers that use soap glycerin try to distinguish their products by calling it “natural." Buyer beware because bio-diesel glycerin is also categorized as “natural” but it’s not been approved by the FDA yet.

Irradiation

Here’s another interesting fact. According to FoodandWaterWatch.org (a consumer advocacy organization) there are no reports of pet illness or death linked to the same jerky treats in Europe. What’s different? Both the U.S. and Australia use irradiation – the process of exposing food to ionizing radiation to destroy microbes. The problem is it doesn’t successfully destroy all of them and can alter the food. From the OrganicConsumers.org website:  “Studies show that animals fed with irradiated food have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage.

Symptoms

Symptoms reported by pet owners include gastrointestinal, liver, kidney and urinary disease.

About 10% of the illnesses included neurologic, dermatologic, and immunologic symptoms and about 15 percent tested positive for Fanconi syndrome – a rare and fatal kidney disease.

Consumer Awareness

Incredibly, even with all the media coverage over the years, there are still pet parents that are totally unaware of the jerky treat situation. Otherwise, how could they knowingly continue to buy the foreign jerky?  Maybe it’s because manufacturers don’t have to list the country of origin for each ingredient used in their products which means they still may be sourced from China.

Or, they just don’t get it. Nina Leigh Krueger, head of Purina’s recalled Waggin ‘Train brand, said they had thousands of customers calling for it to be back on store shelves. 

So Purina re-launched the treat, now including two varieties made in the U.S.  “We still produce our Chicken Jerky Tenders in China but we now get our chicken there from a single U.S.-owned supplier which oversees the process from egg through to treat,” said Bill Cooper, Nestle Purina’s vice president of manufacturing. He declined to name the supplier but said the company now routinely tests for 40 types of antibiotics.

Recalls

Due to consumer pressure, PetSmart and Petco will ban all treats from China by year end 2015. 

Processing in China

Food Safety News just revealed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon allow U.S. chickens to be sent to China for processing before being shipped back to the states for human consumption. Considering that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at these subpar Chinese plants, it’s disturbing to say the least. Also, consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

Report Complaints

You can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area  or go to:  http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints. 

You can also get dog food recall alerts delivered to your Inbox by subscribing to The Dog Food Advisor’s Dog Food Recall Alert email notification list or follow them on Twitter.

Wrap Up

I hope this article has raised awareness of what’s going on in the pet industry.  Personally, I was blown away by what I discovered.  I recommend reading the Hearing on the Threat of China’s Unsafe Consumables by Patty Lovera, Assistant Director of Food and Water Watch dated May 8, 2013 for a good overview.   http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/china_house_testimony_may_2013.pdf

We want you to know that Arrfscarf will continue to source locally and maintain close relationships with our vendors. Our goal has always been and always will be to give your pups the very best.  

Until now, who would have imagined that jerky could be the tipping point for economic trade disaster and personal tragedy. It’s certainly a story of international intrigue. But as we found out, the real story is not about jerky, chickens, or even dogs.  It’s all about money and there’s only one way to fight back. Voting with your purchasing dollars. Buy local and U.S. made products.

Nutrition for Dogs

Salmon Slices, April's Monthly Treat

Salmon Slices are grain and gluten free. What are some of the other unique properties of the treat?

We love Salmon for the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. They are good for your pups skin and coat while providing support for their immune system. We started by crafting our own jerky for this recipe and then used a grain and gluten free base. We choose Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour because it is low in carbohydrates, grain free, and high in fiber. Fiber can help sugars in the pup's from crashing. 

We also added some unsweetened coconut flakes (sulfur/preservative free) and coconut oil. Coconut has benefits for not only your dogs coat but digestive track since it is rich in fiber. Most of the saturated fats in coconut oil are Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s). They help the body digest nutrients efficiently. Coconut oil also contains 50% lauric acid (the only other source for this high amount is in breast milk) which has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties. Below is a short video by Chicago’s own Karen Becker talking about the benefits of coconut oil. 


Lastly we added a high quality little super seed known as black Chia (gluten free). It is non-allergenic. Chia seeds are an excellent source of phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, and zinc. They contain more calcium than whole milk, more iron than raw spinach and more magnesium than broccoli. They even trump salmon by having triple or more Omega-3 fatty acids!

Omega-3 is important to balance out Omega-6 fatty acids and promotes healthy: cells, immune system, skin and coat, joints, brain development and maintenance, eye development and maintenance and growth.” 

We want to thank our monthly subscribers for allowing us to create unique treat experiences for many pups. This special treat has been receiving great feedback! Stay tuned to find out how we are bringing it to more than our monthly subscribers. 

Nutrition for Dogs, News, Tips

March’s Monthly Treat Okinawan (purple) Sweet Potato Cookies

This month’s treat was all about Purple, Yams that is! We used purple sweet potatoes known as Okinawan in their native Hawaii. They are touted as a powerhouse of nutrition and you can find many of the benefits here. The purple pigment provides more than just color. It is a byproduct of the antioxidant Anthocyanin. The Okinawan potato contains 150 percent more antioxidants than blueberries. 

We paired the purple potato with pumpkin seeds. They a great source of protein, amino acids, fiber, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium, folic acid and niacin; all important nutrients to your pet’s overall good health. When feeding them please make sure they are raw and unsalted. An interesting fact we also learned about is they are being used as a holistic approach to treating worms in your dog.

We combined jerky, yogurt, and an egg to provide extra protein for your pup. We do keep it simple below is the complete ingredient list. 

  • Rice Flour
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Egg
  • Purple Sweet Potato
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Raw Pumpkin Seeds
  • Turkey Jerky (locally made)

“Sweet potatoes are cooked with the skin produces more fiber than a serving of oatmeal"

We also sent some our customers another version that we made with organic Buckwheat Flour instead of Rice Flour. Buckwheat is a nice grain free alternative for dogs on special diets