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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.


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.


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.


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.


Here’s another interesting fact. According to (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 website:  “Studies show that animals fed with irradiated food have shown increased tumors, reproductive failures and kidney damage.


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.


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: 

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.

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.

Mucinosis – Why Some Dogs Wrinkle


Shar Peis originated in China about 2,000 years ago during the Han dynasty and were originally bred as fighting dogs and palace guard dogs. When Mao Tse-tung came to power in 1947, he ordered all dogs in the country to be slaughtered and fed to the poor.  It’s said that two men from Hong Kong smuggled six pairs out of the country in the early 1970’s and the breed was rejuvenated in the United States.

These dogs are a rare breed with only 15,000 known to exist worldwide today and valued between $1000 and $2500 dollars. What makes them so valuable? It’s their wrinkles. Suddenly, a genetic mutation becomes a cute factor, and much sought after feature for those looking for something different.   

Unlike people, Shar Peis are born with wrinkles and lose them as they get older because they literally grow into their skin. The obvious question is what makes them wrinkled?

Genetic Condition

It’s a condition called mucinosis. In 2008 researchers from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona determined that their thickened and wrinkled skin was caused by the excessive production of hyaluronic acid by the hyaluronan synthase 2 (HAS2) gene located on chromosome 13.  Hyaluronan lubricates the animals’ joints.

Of course, I knew that!  

They also have a high prevalence of a periodic fever disorder similar to human inherited auto inflammatory periodic fever syndromes.  Hyaluronan may create a “danger” signal to the immune system, analogous to the effects a pathogen may have.   

Say what?

In other words, dogs with multiple mutations of the HAS2 gene seem to be predisposed to short (12-36 hrs), but intense fevers (104-106 degrees) that cause inflammation similarly associated with auto immune diseases in human beings – like Familial Mediterranean Fever. This disorder causes inflammation of the abdomen and chest in people of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent.  

Shar Pies respond quickly to anti-inflammatory drugs, but the prolonged fevers can injure their kidneys.  Human periodic fever disorders are very similar in nature.  

Human Disorders & Aging Process

Finding that hyaluronan is a major trigger of fever opens a new research field in canine and human inflammatory disease,” said senior author Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, a professor in comparative genomics at Uppsala University in Sweden. Knowing this, breeders can now design reproduction programs aimed at improving the health of these animals without mutant duplications.  

Most Wrinkled Dog Breeds

Other wrinkled dog breeds include:  English Bulldog, Dogue de Bordeaux, Mastiff, and Pug. Most of these are brachycephalic (short head and flat face) breeds.

Other animals include the Meishan pig. Originating in China, they are a small farm pig known for their wrinkled faces and long droopy ears. The genetic basis for their look is unknown and is not a deliberately produced trait. Researchers are now investigating breeding Meishans with regular pigs used in large commercial farms because of the advantage that they can breed at a younger age and produce bigger litters.  

In Merino sheep breed called “A Type”, they carry extra wool because of extra skin that produces deep wrinkles, especially around the neck.  

Side Effects

While wrinkling can contribute to the appeal of a breed of domestic animal - when taken to the extreme it tends to lead to disease and infectious risks and be detrimental to the welfare of the animal. So, when choosing designer type breeds, it’s important to know the conditional side-effects.   

  • Infection-causing bacteria and dermatitis.

  • Entropion – a condition whereby the heavy skin on a Shar Pei’s head forces its eyelids to turn in causing their eyelashes to scratch their cornea, leading to blindness.  

  • Some owners are dumping these animals at alarming rates when they discover they have to fork out at least $2000 for corrective surgery.   Amazingly, a retired Melbourne grandmother Amanda Booth is using her life savings to pay $15,000 a year to rescue and re-home as many of these dumped dogs as possible.

  • People are petitioning new laws to breed out dogs whose litters require entropion surgery.

  • In Australia, Shar Peis are forced to have plastic surgery to save their sight.  

  • Psychological

Kermit the Frog said “it’s not easy being green” and Shar Peis being so different can’t always relate to other dogs.  That’s why Tracie Castellanos of Miami, Florida took her Shar-Pei Kuantai to a canine beauty pageant where every dog in the show had wrinkles.  “We’re searching for a wrinkly mate for him.  He’s so happy to see other dogs with wrinkles,” she said. “  

Why didn’t I ever think of that.  It’s for dogs.  I might have to try that.

Plastic Surgery

Sometimes it takes more than just face cream to fix a problem. Today, it’s not uncommon for roly-poly designer dogs to undergo radical facelifts to remove their deliberately bred folds of floppy flesh.  In this case, it’s not for vanity – it’s a life saving measure.  

That’s a little scary but medical science is pretty amazing.  



The Power Of Poop — Big Business

Puppis is a constellation in the southern sky. A poop deck is the roof of a cabin in the rear of a ship. Pooped means fatigued and Poop...well, it needs no explanation other than why I’m writing about such an indelicate subject. It’s because I have a pet peeve, no pun intended, about dog parents who leave it behind.

The big question is why they do? I don’t have that answer. But, I can tell you that it’s a very serious problem around the world. In a weird way, I find doggie poop fascinating now. That’s because of the outrageously creative and inventive ways people have come up with to deal with it. I guarantee once you read this, you may never look at dog poop in the same way again. In fact, you may gain a certain respect for it and all that it can do.



How Much Waste?

  • Every year 40 million tons of dog waste is produced throughout the world - 10 million tons in the U.S.  That would fill 3,800 trucks stretching from Seattle to Boston.

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that a dog excretes 0.75 pounds of waste per day.  That’s about a half-ton of pet waste per year per household.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 2-days-worth of dog waste from about 100 dogs would contribute enough pollution to close a beach and all watershed areas within 20 miles of it.

How Much Bacteria?

  • One gram of dog waste (the weight of a business card) contains 23 million fecal coli-form bacteria.   

Is It Dangerous?

  • YES!  Recent studies show that dogs rank third or fourth on the list of contributors to bacteria in contaminated waters. Dog poop can seep into our ground water, wash into storm drains, and flow into streams and rivers transmitting deadly parasites that cause cramps, fever, hives, kidney problems & even permanent vision damage.

  • Pet waste is rich in nutrients which act as fertilizers for algae so it grows faster. These algae blooms result in large fish kills when they die because the process of decay removes all oxygen from the water.

  • Because of the various parasites, never compost pet waste.

  • In Buenos Aires, an estimated 650 people are hospitalized every year from slipping on dog poop. Now, that’s an image I don’t want to think about.

How Long Does It Take to Decompose?

  • It can take dog waste piles a year or more to fully break down, depending on climate, the animal’s diet, size, etc.    

The Million Dollar Answer

About 40% of Americans don’t clean up after their dogs. A national survey found that 80% of dog owners were unaware that dog waste possesses a health threat and more than 83% didn't know they could become infected by the worms and parasites in it. That may be a reason why dog owners don’t think twice about not picking it up. “If you think picking up what your dog leaves behind is disgusting, try drinking it,“ Jacob D’Aniello, DoodyCalls co-founder and CEO. “The longer dog waste stays on the ground, the more it washes into the water and the environment.” According to the EPA, yet another good reason why people should avoid walking their pets near streams and waterways.


People around the world have come up with clever and creative ways to deal with dog poop issues.  Some have gone beyond just finding ways to clean it up.  They have invented ways to make dog poop a lucrative business.  

DNA Testing      

Apartment and condo managers now use DNA testing. “We would call or send a letter and that dog owner would say: “Prove it,” says Barbara Kansy, manager of a 398-unit condo in Braintree, Massachusetts. So, she contacted BioPet Vet Lab in Tennessee and signed up for PooPrints. The first step is to register the DNA of all the dogs in the complex by collecting cheek cell samples for the database. The second is to collect a feces sample and send it to the lab for matching. The process is part of the condo contract. The initial DNA testing fee is $59.95. Additional testing fees if needed are $50 plus a $100 fine that doubles or triples for each offense. The unorthodox solution worked. Only one offender has been cited since subscribing to the service.


The University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine is another leader in DNA dog waste testing. Just like in a CSI episode, it helped solve a 2000 homicide in which three men were shot execution-style. The suspect claimed he never left the car and only acted as a lookout, but dog feces found on his shoe matched feces at the crime scene. DNA testing on dog poop also helped convict a Texas man of rape in 2008. The California lab linked the feces on his shirt to one of the victim’s dogs waste in the backyard where the crime took place.

Special Delivery in Spain   

Mayor Borja Gutierrez of Brunete, Spain was plagued by citizen complaints about dog owners who didn't clean up. So, he got creative and set up a sting operation.  Volunteers were instructed to watch for negligent owners and then approach their dogs to pet them. After a few flattering remarks, they would ask the breed and then the dog’s name. Back at City Hall, where more than 500 residents had registered their dogs, it was enough information to get the owner’s address. The dog owners got packages – white boxes bearing the town seal and labeled “lost and found." Curious and unsuspecting, they signed for them. Delivering over 140 boxes of the real stuff seemed to make an impression. Not only was there a 70% improvement in cleaning up - most of the owners found the campaign to be funny.   


It was only a matter of time before someone would come up with the idea of poop for profit and other 21st century innovations.

FREE WiFi      

Terra, a Mexican Internet firm, partnered with ad agency DDB to create an incentive program for dog owners: FREE WiFi in exchange for their dog’s poop. The pilot study was done in 10 parks in Mexico City. Owners would put their dog waste in a robot-like machine called Terra Poo. The more poop… the more free Internet. Users got signals via dog bone-shaped dongles inserted on the grass, trees, or other hot-spots near where people might congregate.

Lights in the park

Every day about 200 dogs visit the Cosmo Dog Park in Gilbert, Arizona. When they go home, they leave behind about 8 cu yards of dog waste. Now, those little piles will be used to power a light at the park thanks to a team of engineering/technology students from Arizona State University. The “dog waste digester” breaks down the dog waste in septic tanks through a process called anaerobic digestion. The by-product is biogas – a combination of methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gases. The “digester” helps save the city money by eliminating the cost of collecting the dog waste and taking it to a landfill and reducing atmospheric emissions of methane,  a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.  


You won’t believe the dog poop gadgetry that I found on line. Until now, I didn't know I needed more than just a plastic bag to take care of business.  I’m going to mention just a few.


The company’s tag line, “Just Frost & Toss with Poop Freeze” says it all. Just aim, spray and watch your dog’s poop frost to a cool -62 degrees.  


The Power Pooch System is a lightweight, cordless power shovel. The Dog Dung Vacuum has a 30,000 rpm motor and is good for 50 suctions. Both suck up the waste into a disposable bag.

Doggie Do Drain

If you want another option besides a landfill, this might be for you. The “drain” screws into your existing sewer clean out. Your pet’s waste goes directly into the sewer line along with yours.  

Poop Scooping Robot

The Poop Scoop is a futuristic robot designed by the GRASP (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception) LAB at the University of Pennsylvania.  It’s capable of finding and removing 95% of dog poop on a sidewalk at the amazing rate of one ppm (poo per minute). The price tag on this prototype robot is a whopping $400,000.  


WOW!  Who knew that dog poop was such a big business.  And, who knew that using a plastic bag was so old school. I don’t know what I want more now - one of those power shovels, a robot, or a company to service me. That’s not true. I want to keep walking Maru with my baggie in hand just like we’ve always done.  It’s our special time together when I can be a good mom to her and a good citizen in my community. I guess there’s no moral to this story except to always “watch your step”.

PS A How-To Pick Up Dog Poo.