Avoiding Poison Pet Jerky Harder Than You Think

Pet nutrition expert offers tips to keep pets safe in wake of Chinese pet jerky investigation
BY Lauren Verini TIMENovember 7, 2013 PRINT

Pet owners across the country are worried over the recent news that jerky pet treats made and sourced in China have caused over 3,600 dogs and cats to become ill, and killed 580 dogs. 
The FDA currently does not know the cause of this outbreak and is reaching out to veterinary health professionals, as well as the public, for answers to help in the investigation. 

Since the FDA is unable to determine the cause, no recall has been put in place, meaning pet owners need to make more educated decisions about what pet treats are safe to use.

The amount of pet treats made in China and exported to the U.S. has grown exponentially in recent years, growing more than five-fold from 15 million pounds in 2005 to over 85 million pounds in 2011.

Misleading Labels

Food safety experts have expressed concern since China has far less stringent regulations than here in the U.S. One major step in assuring the safety of treats is to look for products clearly labeled as “Made in the USA.” This provides consumers with the added security of USDA and FDA inspection and regulation, which helps to ensure that such products meet U.S. standards for wholesome and safe pet treats and food.

Currently however, there is a loophole in these regulations that exempts pet food and treat manufacturers from listing the country of origin for the ingredients used in pet food and treats. If the final preparation is done in the USA, the treat can be labeled as USA made regardless of the origin of specific ingredients. This makes choices in pet treats and foods even more confusing for pet lovers.

Irradiation and Glycerin

Pet nutrition expert Anthony Bennie believes that irradiation, the process of exposing pet food and treats to radiation as a means of eliminating foodborne microbes and killing pests, may be playing a role in the illnesses and deaths reported by users of Chinese pet jerky. He also cites the use of glycerin, a humectant preservative in virtually all pet treats from China, as a possible factor in these highly publicized, but to date unexplained, pet deaths and sicknesses.

“The use of both glycerin and irradiation in the same product is troubling to me. No proper studies have been done to determine the possible synergistic effects,” explained Bennie, who has over 20 years of experience in the natural pet food industry.
Bennie is the owner and founder of Clear Conscience Pet, which makes all-natural dog, cat, and ferret treats using organic and humanely raised ingredients. 

“For the health and safety of your pets, as a first step I strongly encourage pet guardians to buy pet treats and foods made and sourced in the USA; but even then, be a detailed label reader and avoid products with chemical preservatives or other ingredients that you can’t pronounce and don’t recognize as foods,” Bennie said.

Keep Giving Quality Treats

Most of the treats in question are made with chicken, duck, sweet potatoes, and dried fruit. According to FDA reports, the jerky-style treats from China have caused affected pets to become sick within hours after consumption. The pets can have decreased appetites, become lethargic, and suffer from repeating cycles of vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms are similar to those seen in early stage kidney failure, including excessive water consumption and increased urination. Total kidney failure has been reported as one cause of the tragic deaths associated with the “mystery illnesses.”

“Our pets are an extension of the family, so news like this is very worrisome for any pet guardian. It can be overwhelming for pet lovers seeking healthy and safe treats and food, since labels can be overwhelming and hard to navigate,” added Bennie.

“But it would be an overreaction to allow these fears to stop you from offering your pet any treats or between meal snacks.”

Despite the FDA’s recent statement that treats are not a necessary part of a fully balanced diet, pets can be affected by cutting out all nutrition between meals. According to Bennie, healthy snacks can play a vital role in helping pets maintain energy levels throughout the day between meals and are also important for emotional bonding and training purposes.

Fortunately, there are companies out there making quality jerkies and other treats with healthy ingredients, made right here in the USA, that pet owners can feed to their pets without having to worry. 

The Sliders® line of tender meat treats by Clear Conscience Pet® ( is an example of a healthy pet treat that is 100% USA made and sourced, and features all-natural and wholesome ingredients like USDA inspected chicken and beef along with natural cheddar cheese, organic flaxseed, and air dried vegetables. 

Sliders® contain no grain, gluten, glycerin, artificial preservatives or flavoring, and no GMO ingredients. Sliders® and other nutritious brands of USA made pet snacks can be found in specialty pet retail stores, natural food grocers, and at reputable online pet food and supply retailers.

Eco18 is a collective of creative-writing individuals from different backgrounds with a common goal—to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle. Their combined expertise, humor, and opinions explore green and sustainable in a practical, fun way.

Eco18 ( is a collective of creative-writing individuals from different backgrounds with a common goal—to live a healthier, more natural lifestyle. Their combined expertise, humor, and opinions explore green and sustainable in a practical, fun way.
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