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Petco to halt sales of treats made in China

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 8:33 p.m.

NEW YORK — Petco said on Tuesday that it will stop selling dog and cat treats made in China by the end of this year because of ongoing fears that the imported treats are making pets sick.

Investigators at the Food and Drug Administration haven't been able to figure out why pets are getting ill from the treats since the agency began receiving reports of illnesses in 2007.

In an update last week, the FDA said it has received more than 4,800 complaints of pet illnesses and more than 1,000 reports of dog deaths after eating Chinese-made chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats. The FDA said tests found antiviral drug amantadine in some samples of imported chicken jerky treats sold a year or more ago but doesn't think it caused the illnesses. The FDA said it will continue to investigate.

Petco said that shoppers have asked it to stop selling treats from China. The pet food retailer said it is switching them out for treats that are made in the United States, New Zealand, Australia and South America.

It began cutting down on the amount of Chinese-made treats three years ago, said Petco Vice President John Sturm. It expects to completely get rid of them in all its 1,300 stores by the end of this year. The San Diego company doesn't sell any pet food made in China.

Rival PetSmart Inc., which is based in Phoenix and runs about 1,300 stores, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2007, some pet food companies voluntarily removed some jerky treats from the market. But, at the time, the FDA said it didn't want to issue a recall without a definitive cause. Those products included Milo's Kitchen Chicken Jerky Treats and Chicken Grillers, made by Del Monte, and Waggin' Train and Canyon Creek Ranch dog treats, made by Nestle Purina.

The FDA has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out what foods may be contributing to pet disease. The study will compare the foods eaten by sick dogs to those eaten by dogs who haven't gotten sick, in order to determine whether the jerky is really the culprit.

So far, testing of jerky pet treats from China revealed low levels of antibiotics as well as the antiviral drug amantadine in some chicken samples. Although FDA-approved for pain-control applications in humans and in dogs, the agency prohibited its use in poultry in 2006 to help preserve its effectiveness.

The FDA does not believe amantadine contributed to the illnesses, because the side effects of the drug do not correlate with the symptoms noted in the pets; however, amantadine should not be present at all in jerky treats.

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