Most adults are experienced at filtering the rivers of ‘information’ encountered each day online. Not so for kids; they take what they watch as gospel, and that’s a concern for animal agriculture.
We love our pets, and it would take way more space than is available here to detail even a fraction of the crazy, over-the-top, extravagantly expensive lengths people go to shower their dogs, cats and other animals with what they believe is the good life.
Total it all up, and the “Pets” market segment represents a $55.6 billion dollar industry, according to 2103 statistics from American Pet Products Association. The biggest segment, naturally enough, is the $21.26 billion spent annually on pet food for an estimated 160 million dogs and cats living in U.S. households.
APPA’s data are all very authoritative. However, deep down in the group’s statistical breakdown of pet-industry revenues is a short disclaimer: “Food category includes treats.”
That’s of interest, because since 2007, FDA has been monitoring illnesses in pets linked to the consumption of those treats, principally pet jerky. According to a bulletin issued this week, FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network has received thousands of reports of illnesses that agency officials believe are related to the consumption of jerky treats. Those incidents involve more than 3,600 dogs and 10 cats and include 580 deaths, FDA stated in a news release.
The reasons that six years have elapsed since the initial reports, and the exact causes are still unknown, are obvious: FDA doesn’t require registration of pet food, so no comprehensive ingredient database is available. And when pets die—even after a sudden or unexpected illness—a necropsy is rarely conducted, so no cause of death can be determined.
Almost 90 percent of the pet illness reports FDA has received involve gastrointestinal disorders and kidney or urinary complications, which underscores the likelihood that pets are eating something that’s probably contaminated. Along with pathogens such as salmonella, FDA has investigated such potential contaminants as:
- Heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium or lead
- Pesticide and antibiotic residues
- Mold and mycotoxins
- Nephrotoxins, such as ethylene glycol or melamine
That last item ought to ring a bell, because melamine is a toxic industrial chemical implicated in several foodborne outbreaks. In 2007, Menu Foods Limited—at the time the largest North American manufacturers of wet cat and dog food—was forced to recall more than 60 million containers of pet food after investigators discovered that melanine and other chemicals—including rat poison—present in their products had sickened hundreds of cats and dogs and killed at least 104.