The "buy local" food slogan so popular with environmentalists may catch on with people shopping for pet food.
"Avoid the newest products on the shelves and buy made-in-the-USA pet food," veterinarian Brian Forsgren said Tuesday at a news conference called by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to publicize the death of a Westlake dog that died after eating chicken jerky made in China.
The Food and Drug Administration has received several hundred complaints since 2007 from pet owners whose dogs suffered serious or fatal kidney damage after eating chicken treats. But the agency's scientists, although they've previously found pet food products that contained harmful contaminants from China, have not been able to identify a toxin and link the jerky treats to the illnesses.
Meanwhile, Forsgren, Brown and the Westlake dog owner urge pet owners to avoid products made overseas. But is it possible to buy totally made-in-the-U.S.A pet food?
Chicken breasts "are not produced domestically in sufficient quantity to meet demand," said Kurt Gallagher, director of communications for the Pet Food Institute, which represents 98 percent of U.S. pet food companies. "In China, consumers prefer to eat dark meat chicken and other cuts, so white meat chicken breasts are available for making quality dog treats."
And other pet food ingredients are only available from foreign sources, including certain vitamins, amino acids, minerals and micronutrients, he said.
"It would be difficult to purchase a pet food that is made from 100 percent U.S. ingredients."
Senator Brown and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich have called on the FDA to recall the jerky treats; step up its search for toxins in them and other pet food; hold U.S. companies accountable for the quality of their overseas ingredients; and improve communications with the public about potential threats.
"Would a consumer who goes to the store to purchase dog treats have any way of knowing that a particular product is under review other than scouring the FDA's website?" Brown wrote in a letter to the agency.
While the senator awaits a response (which you'll read about in Animals in the News), veterinarians and pet owners can learn more at the American Veterinary Medical Association's user-friendly site; avma.org/petfoodsafety/recalls