Chinese Food: What’s in the chicken jerky that’s poisoning our pets?

In China, over 80% of people worry about food safety. Excessive pesticide use, illegal additives, diseased livestock, and “gutter oil”are their primary concerns.[1]  If one billion people are scared of their country’s human food supply, then this US pet parents should be alarmed about the pet food it’s exporting for our dogs and cats.

In 2011 in the US, 70% vessel imports containing finished pet food and their constituent ingredients came from China.  That number is growing.

While the FDA hasn’t yet identified the exact toxin, China-made chicken jerky dog treats like Waggin’ Train, Canyon Creek Ranch (both Nestle Purina brands), and Milo’s Kitchen (Del Monte) have reportedly killed or sickened over 1000 US dogs.  Yet that’s nothing compared to the 8000 dead US dogs from willful melamine contamination in 2007, or the multitude of Chinese people that become sick and die every day from something they ate.

We’ll cover momentarily the pesticides, antibiotics, lead, arsenic, heavy metals, methanol (or cocktails of all these things) that may be lacing that chicken jerky.

With 22% of the world’s population feeding on 7% of the world’s arable land, the availability and the safety of food in China is a grave  concern.  To comprehend it, we need to first grasp the human situation.


  • 123,000 Chinese are poisoned by pesticides each year; as many as 10,000 of them die.[2]
  • 750,000 people die prematurely in China each year from high pollution levels. [3]
  • Groundwater in about 55% of the cities monitored across China is not safe to drink. [4]  25% of all the water in China’s seven main river systems is “too toxic for human contact.”[5]
  • Coal burning pours thick toxic ash over swaths of land contaminating crops, livestock and people. Only 1% of China’s 560,000,000 urban residents breathes safe air,[6] and toxic sulfur dioxide produced in coal combustion contributes to 400,000 premature deaths a year. [7]
  • All this and agriculture has exceeded industry as the biggest polluter.  Runoff dumps millions of tons of pesticide and fertilizer, and billions of tons of manure into major rivers and waterways, creating dead zones in the East China Sea and eutrophication (i.e. dense bacterial blooms) in inland bodies of water.[8]
  • Every year 12 million tons of China’s crops are contaminated with heavy metal residues that threaten public health. [9]
  • 49% of fruits and vegetables in China contain pesticide residues that exceed China’s standards for banned organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. [10]  These are highly toxic pesticides.
  • Residues of antibiotics, growth hormones, and growth promoters like copper sulfate and arsenicals are ending up in the meat and animal products made from the livestock, and in the environment via manure run off.  Rampant overuse of antibiotics also has created superbugs that are a threat to humans, livestock, wildlife and arable land.[11]
  • Many Chinese still dream of eating meat. Chinese spend 40% of their income on food.  The average urban Chinese makes $1,688/year.  The average rural Chinese makes $712/year and consumes just an average of 4.5 ounces per day of meat.  150 million Chinese (equivalent to half the US population) are in poverty making $1.25/day or less. [12]

On every street corner there are problems with human food safety. 

  • In 2010 babies in Central China under 15 months old were growing breasts.  The milk formula they consumed contained residues of growth hormones that were administered to the livestock.[13]
  • In March 2012, 200  grade school students fell ill after eating egg yolk pie; it was found to contain chicken feathers. [14]
  • In March 2012, a food processing company, with an annual output of 8 million ducks, admitted to selling dead ducks instead of incinerating them as regulated.[15]
  • In 2011, restaurant waste “processed” into two to three million tons of swill-cooked dirty oil, was resold as cooking oil (aka “gutter oil”).[16]
  • In February, 2012 a woman bought a roaster chicken from a grocery store only to find it had four legs.  She was told it could be a deformity from radioactivity.[17]
  • In 2012, more stores sell fake or deformed eggs[18], expired meat products and normal chicken as “free range”[19].
  • In 2008, six Chinese babies died and 294,000 were made sick by another case of melamine tainted formula with 51,900 requiring hospitalization.[20]
  • In 2008 Chinese pork dumplings tainted with methamidophos (a banned highly toxic pesticide) exported to Japan and sold domestically made 500 Japanese and countless Chinese agonizingly sick.[21]

All that food safety worry constitutes one giant collective gulp.

And if these instances aren’t enough then read those on From China with Luck or on Wikipedia – including the soy sauce made from human hair and hazardous bodily secretions, hams soaked in pesticides, and pesticide-laced powered ginger sold to supermarkets in the US.[22]

The Big 5 pet food companies that control 85% of the global pet food market have propagated a myth.  According to Waggin Train and Canyon Creek Ranch (Purina):

“These [jerky] treats are made in China… In China, dark meat chicken is more popular with consumers than white meat chicken, and so the supply of quality, white meat chicken used in our products is more readily available for dog treats.”  [emphasis added]

Students have launch in a primary school in Enle township, Yunnan province, April 25, 2012. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

When 700-900 million rural Chinese are fortunate enough to consume just an average of 4.5 ounces per day of some type of suspect meat, it’s incongruous to think they would wrinkle their noses at a quality juicy pure white meat chicken breast.  On the contrary, that chicken breast arguably is ending up in dog food because it is too poisonous for manufacturers to slip into the human food supply.

Toxins in Chinese Food, the likely culprits…

Now let’s explore what may be in that chicken and other food produced in China.

Dogs consuming the tainted Chinese chicken jerky have exhibited gastrointestinal upset and Fanconi Syndrome where the kidneys leak glucose and electrolytes into the urine, and (if untreated) kidney failure ultimately results.   The short list of the know causes of acquired Fanconi Syndrome are:

  1. Ingesting expired tetracyclines (a broad spectrum antibiotic)
  2. Lead poisoning [23]

Exposure to a number of other chemicals and substances can also have a deleterious effect on the kidneys and the GI tract.  Common suspects are:

  1. Arsenic
  2. Heavy metals (particularly mercury, lead, cadmium, and copper)
  3. Highly toxic pesticides (herbicides and insecticides)
  4. Fertilizers
  5. Disinfectants (including their inert ingredients)
  6. Methanol
  7. Coal tar

A Snapshot of China’s Livestock Farming:

Beginning in the early 1980’s industrial forms of livestock raising began to replace China’s backyard farm system.  Then a farmer would produce maybe two pigs a year; one for their family to consume at spring festival and one for the state.  Then pigs didn’t eat grains, they grazed on weeds, crop remnants, and ate kitchen scraps, and left behind perfectly good fertilizer.

Today China’s industrialization of livestock farming – driven by their need to ensure an adequate food supply for their 1.3 billion people – has taken place in concert with the development of a multi-billion dollar (USD) feed industry and a massive pesticide industry.

Swine CAFO. Industrialized pig farming.

Pig farming is by far the biggest livestock industry in China.  To put things in perspective, in 2010 China produced more than 50 million metric tons of pork from a swineherd of 660 million head, nearly all of which was consumed domestically.    This is five times the amount of pork produced in the US and almost half of the global total of 101.5 million metric tons.[24]

This increase in livestock (pigs, chickens, cattle, etc.) also generated 4.8 billion tons of manure in 2008.  The sheer volume of it and China’s failure to institute regulations, makes it a waste management problem.  Today most manure is polluting large tracts of land and waterways.

Mean Cocktails:  antibiotics, arsenicals, growth promoters and other chemicals

Today in China, about 75% of livestock raising is done with specialized household farms (50%) and industrial confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) (25%).  (In the US, upwards of 50% of livestock is raised in large CAFOs [24a]).  Specialized household farms may have up to 500 head of swine (or tens of thousands of chickens).  CAFO are massive outfits with tens of thousands of swine.

Both groups use commercial feed with growth hormones, antibiotics and growth promoters such as copper sulfate, arsenic, and other drugs to hasten the conversion of feed to meat (i.e. produce larger, leaner livestock quicker on less feed).[25]

Industrialized Chicken Coops. Many do not provide this much room.

China buys about 25% of the US’s total soybean production (95% of which is genetically modified) and together with corn (most produced domestically),“fried” cottonseed, and additives, its feed companies produce animal feed.   The feed industry in China is $62 billion (USD) and 70% is owned by billion dollar transnational, vertically-integrated firms (meaning their operations include everything from soy crushing to make soy meal, and feed production through farming and slaughter).   US based Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus (together ABCD) and Wilmar (Singapore) are the major players.  ABCD not only export US soy to China, they import it there to make soy meal and oil.

Corn, once a crop reserved for human consumption, is becoming increasingly used for animal feed.  So much so that the central Chinese government will likely no longer regulate it in the same way as grains intended exclusively for human consumption.[26]  Both soy and cottonseed are grains without regulation.  Arsenic is a pesticide sprayed on cotton fields.

Just like in the US, the common feed additive cocktail includes a form of tetracycline (an antibiotic), arsenic (e.g. roxarosone, carbarsone, arsanilic acid), and a coccidiostat (an antiprotozoal drug).  There’s no regulation or recording of who buys animal feed, how much they use, or whether they use it following any stated guidelines – including expiration dates.

In China, farmers also buy things like “lean meat powder.”  This can be anything, but often it is a long ago banned and dangerous drug called clenbuterol that stays in the tissues of the livestock and is conferred to those consuming it.[27]

We know that consuming expired or broken down tetracycline (in animal feed, in soil, in meat, or in manure) can induce Fanconi Syndrome.  Ingestion of copper sulfate by animals of three ounces of a 1% solution produces extreme inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, with symptoms of abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Examinations of copper sulfate-poisoned animals showed signs of acute toxicity in the spleen, liver and kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. [28]

We also know that arsenic produces GI disturbances, and that consumption of both arsenic and gossypol (the natural toxin contained in cottonseed) can result in kidney tubular damage.

Arsenic is one of those crazy, notoriously toxic substances. Once fed to livestock it passes unchanged into manure.  It stays in the soil and is conferred to anything that soil touches – like crops or other animals.  In the presence of water it converts into highly toxic arsenate.  It’s a carcinogen with a long rap sheet of other maladies.  And in 2005 China was the top producer of white arsenic with nearly 50% of the world share. [29]

So how do these drugs end up in humans or dogs?  Easy.  Either:

  1. In the meat of the livestock if the additives are given in the livestock’s feed or in drinking water in excess, or too close or to the time of slaughter.
  2. In the meat of the livestock if the additives are ingested though environmental exposure.
  3. Through fecal bacteria found in meat products.

The amount of antibiotics entering the environment is tough to determine as it is currently not tracked.  In the US, some estimate that 25.6 million pounds every year are administered for nontherapeutic purposes to swine, chickens and cattle.[30]  With four times our population, and five times more swine, China’s number could be easily 4 to 5 times that amount – especially when you consider that the feed additives industry in China is valued at nearly $30 billion.

Constant , proactive, subtherapeutic doses of antibiotics in animal feed has caused massive problems in China (and the US) with antibiotic-resistent superbugs.   This is a major human health problem.  It’s also a big environmental problem.  Researchers found bacteria with tetracycline resistance in soil samples taken from Chinese feed lots.[31]

China’s abuses may be excessive, but they’re not alone.  Though the US banned the use of arsenic as a pesticide for cotton, high levels of arsenic are still found in domestic rice grown on former cotton fields.  And a recent US study found arsenic in 55% of the uncooked chicken products (including organic varieties) purchased in US supermarkets. [32]

Get the Lead Out – and all those other heavy metals

Lead is another leading cause of acquired Fanconi’s Syndrome.  Like cadmium, copper and mercury, it’s a heavy metal that’s toxic to the kidneys, liver and stomach and prominent in China’s environment.

China is the world’s leading producer and consumer of lead. There have been cases of massive lead poisoning in China. Most lead poisoning comes from pollution from battery factories and metal smelters. In recent years, many new factories have opened to produce lead-acid batteries for electric bikes, motorcycles and cars. [33]

Wang Yaya drinks from a water tap in Guiyang, Guizhou province. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY

Lead, cadmium, copper and mercury are also dumped into waterways from the textile industry.   In 2010 China processed 41.3 million metric tons of fibers, about 52% of the global total.  It also discharged 2.5 billion metric tons of heavy-metal sewage, making the sector the third biggest polluter of all 39 industries.  That is especially worrisome for China where two-thirds of cities lack an adequate water supply, one-fifth of all cities have unsafe water, and 300 million rural residents (the population of the entire United States) have no access to safe sources of drinking water.[34]

Pollution in China has led to chronic health problems such as gastric disorders, diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, as well as acute poisoning and death.    And there is a term in China for the mass incidents of pollution:  “cancer villages.”

Many Chinese disregard pollution in favor of profits and growth. Local governments put their own projects and economic benefits ahead of central government directives, and the concerns of local farmers and villagers.[35]

In 2006, the river that flows through the village of Shangba in Guangdong province suffered massive heavy metal pollution from the Dabaoshan mine.  The mine, which produced huge piles of tailings (mining refuse) discarded them next to rice fields. It also dumped large amounts of cadmium, a known carcinogen, as well as lead, zinc, indium and other metals into water supplies. High levels of cadmium and zinc in the drinking water and in the rice grown by the villagers showed up in test results. Stomach, liver, kidney and colon cancer accounted for 85% of the cancers acquired by villagers in what is now known as “the City of Death.”[36]

All this lead and pollution enters the soil and waterways through conscious or accidental dumping, runoff, or toxic ash.  It enters their crops and livestock and is passed on through the food chain.

Pesticides, Fertilizers, and Disinfectants:  You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Photo illustration [China Daily]

If you think things can’t get much worse, think again. Beneze.  Tulene.  Furans.  Xylene.  Various hydrocarbons.  Organophospates. Think nerve gas.

Greenpeace estimates that China uses 35% of the world’s fertilizer.  [37]  That’s over 51 million tons. More than the US and India combined. [38]

China is now the world’s largest pesticide user, producer and exporter.  Chinese farmers use 1.7 million tons of pesticide (herbicide and insecticide) on approximately 300 million hectares of farmland and forest, and it increases every year.[39]  On a per hectare basis, that’s three to five times higher than in most other countries.[40] Organic (synthetic) pesticides are the most toxic and they are the most widely used in China.

China makes 300 types of pesticides and 800 pesticide mixtures under 14,000 brands.[41]  And they have completely destroyed 7% of their arable land from improper use.[42]  Every year, they also poison 123,000 people, and kill 300 – 500 farmers from improper handling, and another 10,000 people from accidents.[43]

Farmers suffer liver, kidney, nerve, blood, eye, skin, respiratory problems and headaches from pesticides.  In one study, tests measured the levels of chemicals in farmers that are known indicators of pesticide poisoning, and found elevated levels in the liver (22%), kidney (23%) and nerves (6%).[44]

Overusing pesticides is a common practice in China.  Many farmers, who fear the pesticides they buy are fake, mix them at concentrations 2 – 3 times the recommended dosage, and apply them more often than instructed. [45]

Compounding the overuse problem is a major conflict of interest.   The local regulatory officials responsible for monitoring and maintaining proper pesticide usage by farmers are essentially self-employed.  Without salaries or offices they must generate their own revenue and the way they do this is to sell pesticides to the same farmers they’re supposed to regulate.[46]

In 1997 the central government forbade the use of highly toxic and hypertoxic agricultural chemicals for insect control on vegetables, melons, fruits, tea, and herbs for human consumption.[47]   Yet these things could still be sprayed on animal feed crops, and directly on livestock, they’re relatively easily obtained, and use of them is prolific.

Arsenic is a highly toxic.  It’s chump-change next to organophosphates. Organophosphates are the basis for nerve gas.  While the central government purportedly forbade most organophosphates in 1983, methamidophos, an organophosphate, remained widely-used.   In 2000, a single boat accidentally dumped 50 tons of methamidophos into the Yangtze River.  The river became barren and many species of fish are now extinct.

In 2007 China banned the use of methamidophos and four other highly toxic pesticides:  parathion, methylparathion, monocrotophos and dimecron and has recommended 15 others in their place.  But these chemicals still exist in the environment, and can likely still be acquired and used – especially for unregulated animal feed crops.


Runoff into the waterways, the pervasiveness of these chemicals in the soil, and their abundance in billions of tons of manure are just the natural ways these chemicals persist.   Less than 1% of the 4.2 million large-scale farms for pigs, cattle and chicken use biogas digesters to dispose of livestock waste.[48]  Research found that farming was responsible for 44% of the chemical oxygen demand (the main measure of organic compounds in water) and 67% of phosphorous discharges, and 57% of nitrogen discharges into bodies of water.  In other words:  farming has replaced industry as the biggest environmental polluter.

From drinking water, feed grown in contaminated soil, or fecal contamination, these chemicals can easily find their way back into the tissues of the livestock sold for China’s human consumption – or if rejected there – sold for exported pet food.

To underscore the point, even in the US, FDA allows for export or redirection into domestic animal feed (inclusive of pet foods) food stuffs that have been rejected for human consumption because of contamination of banned substances.[49]  (Read: 4-D, For Shame.)

Inert Ingredients, Disinfectants, and the Kitchen Garbage

Xylene is classified as an “inert ingredient” on that can of Ortho flying ant killer we have in our tool sheds. It’s anything but inert.  Like cresols, it’s just one of the many substances used to kill insects that permeate the environment.  According to Merck’s online veterinary manual, these are toxic substances for livestock that can cause kidney damage.  And livestock may be sprayed, dipped or dusted with Xylene to get rid of bugs.  Xylene is an organic compound created along with benzene and toluene in the coal industry (which is big in China).  Cresols (think coal-tar) are mainly hydroxytoluenes, and the first indication of poisoning in animals is usually death.[50]

An article on “gutter oil” caught my eye.  At the opening of this article we talked about “gutter oil,” created from “recycled” kitchen waste being resold for humans.  Turns out China has a better idea for restaurant waste.  They want to turn it into animal feed.

“The kitchen leftovers, thought to be a good source of digestible energy and high-quality proteins, might end up as feed for livestock such as pigs and chickens, as a supplement to their diet.”[51]

China has monetized the project at $15.2 billion (USD) wasted in 2009 on restaurant leftovers.

China’s government also is exploring turning 60 million tons of annual restaurant leftovers into fuel.  On the surface that sounds like a better solution.  Fuels contain varying amounts of benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene.  And the issue is that this is happening in conjunction with turning the leftover material from the fuel conversion process into dirty, synthetic fertilizer. [52]

On top of this is something that hits the chicken jerky production right between the eyes.  Milo’s Kitchen, Canyon Creek Ranch, Waggin Train and others all use glycerin (aka gylcerol, natural vegetable glycerine) in their dog treats.  Glycerin is a natural byproduct of biodiesel production.  In fact one gallon of biodiesel yields one pound of glycerin.  This glycerin from biodiesel is contaminated with methanol, a highly toxic substance and it’s entering the animal feed market.  It’s happening in the US.  And no doubt happening in China.  Read:  Glycerin:  A Biodiesel by Any Other Name Wouldn’t Taste as Sweet.

Recycling restaurant grease into animal feed and pet food is not new.  The FDA unfortunately allows it in the US.  Whether here, China, or elsewhere, there’s something wrong with picking up all the decomposed garbage from restaurants, rendering it down, feeding it to animals, and considering it safe.    It’s at least something I would never let past my dog’s nose.

Coal in Your Stockings, Poop on Your Soles and Bird Flu in Your Food

China passed the US in 2008 as the world’s largest emitter of Green House Gasses with 17.3% of the world’s total.  Their environmental problems cost the country more than $200 billion a year, roughly 10% of China’s GDP in 2005.[53]

China Officials Release Amusingly Good “Smog Report”

China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined.  And it has increased coal consumption 14 percent in each of the past two years.  Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.[54]

Like an exploding bag of flour, all this soot ends up everywhere.  From an agricultural perspective, it can coat crops and livestock in the toxic cresols mentioned earlier.

Not only is there 4.8 billion tons of manure running into waterways there are chemical spills with local health risks and global implications.  In 2005 an explosion at a state owned petrochemical plant released over 100 tons of benzene and nitrobenzene into the Songhua River affecting 3.8 million residents.  This river, 600 km downstream serves as the main water supply for the Russian city of Khabarovsk.[55]

Satellite imagery has identified global concentrations of the poisonous nitrogen oxide produced by vehicles to be the largest in China, and some soot clouds are so thick they block out entire cities from being seen at all from above.  Reports indicate that only 32% of China’s industrial waste is treated in any sort of way.  Some project that by the year 2050, if nothing changes, over 1 million people each year will die in China just from air pollution.[56]

Los Angeles authorities claim that 25% of the particulates in their skies come from China.  Research confirms that dust clouds from Asia contain not only harmful pollutants but also living organisms that transmit disease – like outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and avian flu. [57]

And this past April, more than 23,000 chickens at several farms in the Chinese village of Touying were confirmed for the H5N1 bird flu virus.  A total of 95,000 chickens have been culled.  There’s no mention of where those diseased birds will end up.  But if China thinks restaurant waste makes fine animal feed, then those dead birds must look like that “readily available” “quality white meat chicken,” Waggin Train was talking about.[58]

About the Author:

Gracie and Lula with their Mama

Amy Renz is the founder and pack leader of Goodness Gracious, LLC.  Goodness Gracious makes 100% human-grade, USDA/FDA approved, USA sourced treats for dogs and cats with only the ingredients you have in your own kitchen.  From single ingredient jerky to gluten-free biscuits, it’s the stuff you feel good about feeding your beloved companion.  It’s also the stuff you feel good about buying.  Goodness Gracious donates 51% of its profits to community shelters, rescues and spay/neuter programs wherever its treats are sold.  Visit

[1] Over 80% of Chinese people worry about food safety: survey (Jan, 9, 2012)

[2] A China Environmental Health Project Fact Sheet. Pesticides and Environment Health Trends in China.  Feb. 28, 2007 by Yang Yang. Pesticides in China:  A Growing Threat to Food Safety, Public Health and the Environment by Jessica Hamburger

[3] Assessing China’s Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu.

[4] Report: Groundwater falls short. (May, 11, 2012)

[5] Assessing China’s Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu

[6] Assessing China’s Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu

[8] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[9] A China Environmental Health Project Fact Sheet. Pesticides and Environment Health Trends in China.  Feb. 28, 2007 by Yang Yang.

[10]  A China Environmental Health Project Fact Sheet. Pesticides and Environment Health Trends in China.  Feb. 28, 2007 by Yang Yang.

[11] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[12] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[13] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[14] Lack of guidelines threatens school meals (May, 7, 2012)

[16] Political advisers urge kitchen waste legislation

[17] Consumer put off by four-legged frozen chicken (Mar 22, 2012)

[18] In China, Fear of Fake Eggs and ‘Recycled’ Buns  and Bouncing yolk leads to tests on stores’ eggs (Feb 9, 2012)

[19] Carrefour store closed after TV report (Mar 19, 2012)

[24] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[24a] CAFOs Uncovered. The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Doug Gurian-Sherman.  2008 Union of Concerned Scientists.

[25] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[26] Feeding China’s Pigs.  Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Famers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  May 2011

[27] From China With Luck


[30] Hogging It.  Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock.  Margaret Mellon, Chalres Benbrook, Karen Lutz Benbrook.  Union of Concerned Scientists. January 2001.

[31] Feeding China’s Pigs. Implications for the Environment, China’s Smallholder Farmers and Food Security.  Mindi Schneider.  May 2011

[32] Playing Chicken:  Avoiding Arsenic in Your Meat.  David Wallinga, MD.  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.  April 2006.

[33] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[35] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[36] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[37] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[41] A China Environmental Health Project Fact Sheet. Pesticides and Environment Health Trends in China.  Feb. 28, 2007 by Yang Yang and Pesticides bring a silent spring

[42] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[43] Pesticides in China:  A Growing Threat to Food Safety, Public Health and the Environment by Jessica Hamburger

[46] Pesticides in China:  A Growing Threat to Food Safety, Public Health and the Environment by Jessica Hamburger

[47] Assessing China’s Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu.

[48] Animal waste a threat to clean water supply

[49] A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, 7th ed. Ruth Winter, MS

[51] Political advisers urge kitchen waste legislation

[52]  Chinese scientists turn kitchen waste into fuel.

[53] Assessing Chines Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu

[54] Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow

[55] Assessing Chines Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu

[56] Let the clean-up of the century roll on (April 20, 2012)

[57] Assessing China’s Government Response to Challenge of Environment and Health.  June 2008.  Charles W. Freeman III and Xiaoging Lu

About Amy Renz

Amy is the CEO and Pack Leader of Goodness Gracious, LLC ( and we save lives. We make healthy 100% human-grade, USDA certified, USA sourced dog and cat treats, and give 51% of our profits to local animal shelters, rescues and spay/neuter programs in communities where our treats are sold. Our products include single-ingredient jerky and gluten free biscuits that pets love, and parents love to give. Amy is a Marathoner, a slalom skier, but first a parent to her pack of three beautiful canines. Find us on Facebook at Twitter @Goodnssgracious
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34 Responses to Chinese Food: What’s in the chicken jerky that’s poisoning our pets?

  1. Mollie Morrissette says:

    Have you seen the list of what the FDA has tested the treats for yet? Of course we are not privy to the raw data, but it is something to consider addressing. In the FDA’s Q&A CJT page they go into a little more detail about what they have tested for. Again, no raw data. I would like a leading toxicologist to weigh in on the matter. Personally, I have serious problems with “the list”, however as the FDA is not as transparent as I would like it to be, perhaps (I hope) there have been other tests performed that we are unaware of. I know that Karyn Bischoff at Cornell has said the toxin is probably atypical, because they have tested for the most common contaminants and come up empty. So now they are exploring atypical nephrotoxins, etc.

  2. Amy Renz says:

    Hi Mollie,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I’ve seen what they are testing for. (I’ve included this below for anyone reading this thread that’s interested.) Like you, I haven’t seen any results.

    I suspect that it’s going to be a delicate little slow dance for the FDA to come back with something. It seems every time the US points the finger at China for some food safety concern, they kick us in the shins… We’ve got billion dollar interests in China in the animal feed industry alone… And since as a country, we need them as a buyer for our goods, no one wants to upset the applecart for what they likely see as a few dead dogs.

    This was the was the issue in 2007 when avian flu and other food safety concerns prompted us to cut off imports of Chinese chicken. China turned around and cut of our chicken exports to China… and since we sell vastly more chicken to China then we buy from them, and we were in tough economic times in 2009, we lifted the import ban on Chinese chicken.. The food safety concerns were still in play. That’s at least one example of economics and politics trumping health and safety in the human food supply…

    For those interested in what the FDA is testing, here it is to the best of my knowledge as of this post:

    In February 2012, the FDA began testing chicken jerky imported from China for toxins including Salmonella, metals, furans, pesticides, antibiotics, mycotoxins, rodenticides, and nephrotoxins (which are chemicals or medications that have a poisonous effect on the kidneys). The FDA specifically names in their tests:
    • Aristolochic acid (toxic compounds often found in Chinese herbal medicine),
    • Maleic acid (made from benzene it’s used to retard rancidity in fats and oils),
    • Paraquat (widely used herbicide),
    • Ethylene glycol (aka antifreeze),
    • Diethylene glycol (chemicals used in plastics),
    • Toxic hydrocarbons
    • Melamine and related triazines (an organic chemical often used as the basis for herbicides or melamine).

    DNA verification was conducted to confirm the presence of poultry in the treats. And as crazy as it sounds to test a chicken to see if it’s chicken, it is not crazy in China. China is the land where manmade concoctions of chemicals, gelatin and paraffin are sold as eggs.

    Samples have also been submitted for nutritional composition (which includes glycerol concentrations), vitamin D excess and enterotoxin analysis. Enterotoxins are protein toxins released by a microorganism in the intestine that cause GI distress; e-coli would fall into this category.

    Sniffing around glycerol (aka glycerin) is a good bet, in my opinion, given the surplus methanol-laced glycerin from biodiesel on the market…

  3. Amy, As an Integrative Veterinarian on my radio show (Radio Pet Vet, and my veterinary practice ( we are so didactic about the importance of great food and supplements. We especially teach our pet parents about what is in foods and how poorly regulated the vitamin/supplement world is. Thank you for sharing all of the information about China, and the problem with big business controlling pet foods. It is a great service.

  4. Lisa P says:

    Thank you for this article Molly. Gross, gross, gross! Btw, the count if dead dogs is now up to 1,000 and counting. I run a website for parents with sick cats and the last thing anybody needs is to worry about what else might kill them! ugh, discouraging, disgusting, sickening, angering, I have plenty of these!

    • Mollie Morrissette says:

      You’re welcome. Actually, the 1000 count is the number of dogs reported to the FDA with problems possibly associated with the CJTs. Whether that number reflects reality, is probably not very likely. Most people don’t report, didn’t make the association, etc. I would imagine the number of unreported cases is at least 30,000. Based on the CDC’s estimate that for every reported illness (in humans), 29 go unreported.

  5. Lisa P says:

    Yeah, I can guess that’s true. Two cats have died now from the Diamond Pet Food recalls and I fear that’s just the beginning also. And that was from PREMIUM food. Amy thank you for this original article as well (I meant to write that earlier). Mollie, I sent you an email about your blog thanking you for it and I don’t know if you ever got it, I never received a response to it. I run IBDKitties:

    • Mollie Morrissette says:

      Lisa, I spoke with the owner of Humanochat, Monica, in Montreal and the cases are unconfirmed. The cats did not test positive for Salmonella Infantis. They were fed Kirkland (Costco) dry cat food. The food did not fall withing the recall time-frame, so Diamond can’t or won’t do anything. Regardless, Kirkland is a crap cat food that I would never feed to my cats. But she has to rely on donations and now they have no food — it all had to be thrown out. Someone gave them some Whiskas (!!) cat food, but they are in desperate need of donations. You can find the article on the net they have the address you can donate too.

      Good for you on IBD kitties. I’ve known about your work for some time!! Nice to meet you! I get so much email – I might have missed it – sorry! My bad/rude.

      • Lisa P says:

        LOl, it’s okay Mollie, I can imagine how busy you are. Thank you so much and thank you for liking my Facebook page, hopefully that will get more people to read about IBD. Such an epidemic it’s unreal. I forgot about Kirkland food, I assumed it was the Taste of the Wild dry food but thought that may not be right since most places can’t afford better food than Kirkland. I’m working on a blog hopefully soon about ingredients that most people wouldn’t give a second guess too like spinach for one! Dr. Lisa Pierson recently helped me in my fighting the addition of spinach to pet foods and getting of course nowhere. Soy is another one I am not pleased about. The list goes on. I did send a link to your blog site to my 300+ newsletter readers. Do you have a link for that shelter in Canada? I am about to send out a newsletter tonight, I can add the link and ask people to spread the word that they need donations badly!

      • Mollie Morrissette says:

        Bless you! Bless you! I’m sure she doesn’t mind we are all here for the same reason to help our furry friends and family. The lady’s name is Monica Campo at Humanochat in Montreal.

        She has over 300 homeless cats and barely any food because it was contaminated. She said no one cares (in Canada) and that I was the first person to call and offer help! Let’s prove her wrong that there are plenty of people who care!

        From the article (the newspaper made a mistake it was Kirkland not cat chow):
        …”The shelter has therefore had to throw away their entire month’s supply of cat food. Some of the animals at the shelter also got sick, and two died, though it’s not clear if they had salmonella poisoning . At the time, the veterinarian blamed gastro on the deaths. The recall has been problematic for the shelter. “Everything that was donated for us this month is gone. No donations. We have to go to the vet more, so there is more consultation,” said Monica Campo of Humanochat.

        Anyone who wishes to donate food or money can do so here:

        P0 Box 23507
        Maurice Duplessis, Montreal
        H1E 1M0

        Those who want to help the non-profit refuge can call 514-220-0353.”

        That is Monica’s cell-phone number (above), BTW. And as far as I can tell, they don’t have a website or a Facebook page…

        (With a report from source:

      • Lisa P says:

        I saw that! I googled it and found nothing. I’ll put it out there on my website and on my Facebook page. That’s terrible nobody cares. Say what you will about the U.S. but we are generous people who always rally for people and for pets in need. I agree, let’s prove them wrong. Btw, the cats that sent you a friend request on Facebook, Lacey Finn, those are mine. I prefer right now not to have a personal page for myself. And I would never in a million years feed Kirkland either. Trying to transfer Lacey and Finnegan to raw now. That will take a LONG time, picky little brats, LOL.

      • Amy Renz says:

        Hey Lisa and Molly – I’m so thrilled that you connected! Great things happen with good people get together!
        I thought I would share a video we just released on this topic of China’s chicken jerky, and other stuff coming out of China. Molly, you’ll find PoisonedPets noted on a couple snapshots in the video. Please share wherever you feel it would be helpful…

      • Lisa P says:

        Hi Amy! Thank you for kindness and thank you for your dedication to pets and their safety. This video is just heart wrenching and maddening! I’ll post on my Facebook pages now. If you’re on Facebook Amy I’d love to connect with you. I’m glad we’ve all connected here. It’s serendipity since I hadn’t been able to get a hold of Mollie through her blog previously. Glad I came here and posted! There’s strength in numbers!

      • Mollie Morrissette says:

        The video is amazing!! I have to leave now, but when I get back I will be sure to watch it in it’s entirety. Thank you for putting me in it too. Jeepers, I’m honored!

        Thank you! Blessings, Mollie

        BTW, I guess that some of Lisa’s friends were able to donate to Humanochat. Isn’t that great?

      • Lisa P says:

        I talked with my friend from Canada online last night and omg the shelters in Canada are WRETCHED and deplorable! People there don’t seem to have any help with their shelters and taking care of strays. She showed me several like that, it was awful! I really don’t understand it but I wonder what their laws are regarding animal treatment.

      • Amy Renz says:

        Hi Lisa, there is indeed strength in numbers! We are definitely on FB. I’ll find you and friend you! We’re at fb/GoodnessGraciousTreats. Thanks!

      • Lisa P says:

        Amy because so many of my newsletter readers have dogs, I’m going to add a link to your treats via my next newsletter. My readers will love your donations to the rescues and shelters also!

  6. Lisa P says:

    Never mind Mollie, I found it, thank you for letting me know. Btw, I’m going to friend you with my cat’s Facebook pages, I don’t have one for myself. LOL. Sorry to highjack your blog Amy!

  7. Heather says:

    I don’t know what to say. 2+ years later, I am still so sad and angry that chicken jerky from Costco caused our beloved black lab to die of kidney failure, and I feel powerless to do anything about it.

    • Lisa P says:

      Oh Heather, I could not be more sorry to hear this. How awful. My heart goes out to you. I know what you mean. We pet parents just don’t seem to have a say in anything!

    • Amy Renz says:

      Heather, I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. Our pups are our children and when they leave us or are taken from us, an unspeakable void enters our lives. You lab loved you wholeheartedly, and left you not regretful that time was cut short, but full of the love you bestowed upon her and joyously thankful to have shared all her moments with you.

      We are never powerless. We possess a tremendous power to affect – even in the little things we do. Change will come about when these companies who turn a blind eye to the well being of the animals people entrust to them through the food they buy, hear the voices of us parents loudly and clearly. There is no other language these companies speak than the language of economics. By choosing not to buy from them – and encouraging our fellow parents to do the same – we will be heard. And there will be no doubt.

      Change will happen. Your beautiful, beloved lab will have made it so. And she will have the last word.

      Keeping you in my heart.

  8. Jeff Capco says:


  9. Perspective says:

    I have to believe most all of these products are made to the specific specifications of the firms whose label they bear…that is America pet brands…so why the attach on china this and china that? You could well write a similar piece on USA food companies. Look at what American industry did to our environment to mature itself from 1945 – 2000 and beyond. I believe if American pet companies Will get whatever product they spec. I have traveled extensively in China and have eaten 1000’s of meals, from street vendors to five star, .never been sick once.

    • Amy Renz says:

      Spencer, I doubt the US manufacturers who recalled millions of pet food products in 2007 asked to have melamine added to the Chinese-made wheat gluten they were using. So while we may *want* to believe US products are made to the US manufacturer’s specifications, we don’t *have* to believe anything.

      This piece reveals the food and water situation in China, and is critical of US pet food manufacturers who ignore these issues by either manufacturing their food products in China or importing China’s food ingredients to make their products here. These companies are turning a blind eye for profits. Indeed, there are issues with US food companies. Just because this piece focuses on one aspect of the pet food industry does not mean that all other US pet food companies get a free pass. Diamond’s recent (2012) recalls for salmonella contamination is just one example.

      And to your last point, just because one does not become violently ill after eating a meal in China does not mean that there is not arsenic in the rice, or cadmium or expired tetracycline in the fish, or clenbuterol in the pork. The trouble with heavy metals (and other toxins) is that overtime they cause illness and death.

      • Lisa P says:

        And to add to that just about everything we buy that’s made in China contains high levels of lead including dishes, glasses, toys, etc. No one is attacking China because we want to, it’s because they need to change their practices and they are slow, slug-like, in doing so! And yes, the U.S. has just as many faults. They let these things get through and not only that but the FDA lies to us all the time. All Amy is trying to do is help educate. There are plenty of other countries we import from and they comply nicely with U.S. standards and these are third world countries. So it’s not that hard to do!

  10. Allen says:

    It’s against the law in the country of Canada to sell anything for pets with contents from China.

  11. The FDA is so underfunded, they basically can’t afford to function. Don’t rely on them for much. I don’t understand – if we know how unsafe things are in China, why don’t we ban everything from there until they find a way to clean things up and make them safe? Not just for us, but for their own ppl, too. For me, this ties in w the planet not being able to support our population. It doesn’t help when we pollute as much as we do. But, I wonder what would happen if we ( USA ) started banning from places like this that have contaminated crops, ect? Maybe they would finally clean it up? We need to be more self-sufficient and grow our own. Backyard crops are good. No chemicals = no pollution/waste. It can be done. It was done hundreds of yrs ago. Before I read this about how polluted China was and how so many ppl died there every yr bc of that, I thought they hated us and were trying to kill us all off. Now I see that they can’t help it, and we get just a taste of what they live w every day. Things need to change there. Is there a global org that can help educate countries and ppls about safe farming techniques?

  12. Scorpio says:

    And still the FDA refuses to pull the dog treats off the shelves that are killing our dogs. They know they are killing our pets, but still they keep these brands made in China on our shelves and stores like Pet Smart, who say they want to give your pet the best, are stocking up their shelves with this poison. They are aware of the problems with these four brands but continue to stock them. When will the FDA stop playing politics and pull this poison off the shelves?

  13. L. Selvan says:

    Amazing that you think all of this is in the treats..but the FDA can’t find any of it in testing.

    • Amy Renz says:

      Hi L.
      I don’t think the FDA has been allowed to do any testing at the plants in China… Last I heard (and it was months ago) they were essentially shuttled off by officials who wanted any testing to be done in China’s own labs. Maybe someone has a more recent update… anyone?

  14. rocksolidk9 says:

    Thank you for this great article. It has really useful and founded information and I’ll recommend it to my clients. I have been feeding my dogs non-commercial (raw) food for almost 9 years now and try to buy from local farms, cutting out China wherever I can. Your article definitely makes me pay more attention to where I buy our human food from as well…

  15. Pingback: Health Spotlight News Food Poisonings Up From Raw Milk Poultry Bacteria Usa Today Usa Today | Health Spotlight News

  16. Pingback: Opt for Top Five. Choose Dog Treats that Meet these Criteria | Dirty Popcorn

  17. Pingback: Quiz! Test your knowledge of human and pet food from USA and China! | Dirty Popcorn

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