Pet Food Safety in China. Where Failed Systems Kill

Friday, August 24, 2012 6:39
Comments Off on Pet Food Safety in China. Where Failed Systems Kill

It is a rare find when a single issue/ story can be the string that ties together so many of my recent posts, but the recent NBC news article China stiff-arms FDA on jerky pet treat testing, reports show has managed to tie together three separate posts on quality “fade”, food safety, and transparency

The story is one that has been brewing for a number of months now as FDA has come under pressure to find out what was killing dogs in the US, an investigation that led back to dog treats. Specifically treats sold under the Purina brand, which were sourced out of China.  And when the FDA did manage to find the money (and time) for the treat, they got the royal treatment by their hosts, General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ):

Investigators with the federal Food and Drug Administration came away empty-handed after conducting April inspections at four jerky treat manufacturing sites in Liaocheng and Jinan, China, according to the records.

The plants make pet treats sold by the St. Louis-based Nestle Purina PetCare Co., including the popular Waggin’ Train jerky brands.

Chinese officials stipulated that FDA officials could collect samples only if they agreed to specific conditions, including a requirement that the samples be tested in Chinese-run laboratories.

Tying in my previous posts, what this story shows me is the following:

1) Purina is sourcing naked, and while they are being cooperative NOW, there is clearly a failure in thir supply chain that is preventing them from keeping products out of the market that are unsafe.  In part, this is likely (and I am speculating) to their procedures for regular visits, but more than that, it looks to me like they are not performing regular tests.  Even when there has been a steady stream of complaints in recent years about Chinese suppliers in this category.

2) FDA is working blind, and the comment that “They’re doing nothing of consequence. The FDA’s tone-deaf on this one.” by “Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio is in many ways spot on.  The systems that the US has in place, even in areas where failures are known, are simply non-existent.  So, while China blaming is easy, this is also an area where I see a failure in process

3) China’s inspectors have dropped the ball on a chance to not only do the right thing, but to develop trust.  There should be no question or concern from China’s perspective about who is doing the testing.  this should be about moving towards a system that holds firms accountable for their failures.  This should not be a political or face issue, even if it is.  The “greater good” should have prevailed here. Sadly it didn’t.

Which leads me to the following.

Honestly, given the problems that China has in supplying products that are safe in the dog treat category, and the problems that exist with the relevant parties in removing these products (and firms) from the market when they fail, consumers (sadly) need to consider buying Made in China products in this category until Purina shows that it will make the investment in its system to ensure that not only are batches being tested, but that there are regular (and transparent audits) occurring of their suppliers.  given the exposure that these products have to living things that are cared for, I see no reason why the expectations for reporting be less than they would be for anyone else.

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