Animal supply store Petco announced Tuesday that it will stop carrying dog and cat treats made in China, and expects to completely phase them out by the end of the year.
The decision applies to its 1,300 store locations nationwide, making it the first major pet supplies provider to take such a step; made in”in support of the health and well-being of pets.”
This decision was made after the Food and Drug Administration released updated information on Friday about an ongoing investigation into illnesses and deaths caused by jerky pet treats imported from China.
As of May 1, 2014 the regulatory agency has received more than 4,800 reports of illness affecting a total of 5,600 dogs, 24 cats, and 3 people.
A number of reports came from owners with multiple dogs. More than 1,000 dogs have died. There have been 1,800 new cases of illness since the last FDA report in October 2013.
The FDA says the jerky treats were almost all manufactured in China, with flavors that include chicken, duck and sweet potato. The FDA has not recommended a recall of jerky products because they have been unable to find a direct link.
In several analyzes, the snacks were found to contain low levels of antibiotics as well as the antiviral, FDA approved drug amantadine.
However, the FDA does not believe the illness was caused by amantadine because symptoms in the case reports are not typically associated with the drug. The FDA says it has called upon the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control to to conduct further studies and research, reported CBS news.
Petco plans to expand their offerings of treats to draw more on products made in the U.S. and regions of the world like New Zealand, Australia and South America.
The selection of USA-made products at Petco includes brands like American Jerky, Blue Buffalo, Blue Ridge Naturals, Canidae, Colorado Naturals, Dogswell, Isle of Dog, Merrick, Natural Balance, Nature’s Variety, Prairie Dog, Zuke’s and more.
Petco hopes to complete the transition by the end of the year, and said for years they have been actively reducing the amount of China-made treats sold in their stores.
“We know the FDA hasn’t yet identified a direct cause for the reported illnesses, but we decided the uncertainty of the situation outweighs the lack of actual proof,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO. “It has taken some time and careful thought to get to this point, but we’re proud to make the change and we believe our customers will be pleased with it as well.”