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Ohio senator calls on Congress to address tainted pet treats from China

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voiced his concern that pet treats labeled as coming from the United States may contain toxic ingredients from China, according to the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday.

“For many Americans, pets are members of the family and their death can be devastating,” Brown said. “There have been too many animals killed or sickened for the Administration not to address the potential link to tainted Chinese products.“

On June 17, Brown chaired a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) to urge the Administration to investigate Chinese food processing standards to ensure the safety of products sent from China to the U.S.

The hearing, “Pet Treats and Processed Chicken from China: Concerns for American Consumers and Pets,” questioned China’s food safety regulation.

Last month, a report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed 5,600 dogs and cats became ill as the potential result of tainted pet treats from China. More 1,000 dogs have died.

Although the FDA performed inspections at the factories in China, their studies to date have not been able to definitively find the source which caused the animals to get sick. While the FDA is able to collect information during the inspections, the factories do not allow the FDA to collect samples for independent analysis.

Tainted feed imported from China may also be to blame for the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has wiped out an estimated 10 percent of the pig population in the U.S.

To address the issues, Brown announced that he is introducing an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The bill would mandate that the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) update Congress on the adequacy of U.S. food inspectors’ investigations into Chinese processing facilities, including those that produce pet treats. The FDA is seeking to expand the number of U.S. food safety inspectors in China from eight to 27, but has run into problems obtaining work visas from the Chinese government. The bill would also address updating Congress on securing the work visas.

The concern over food safety of products imported from China may also apply to food consumed by people as well. Americans may soon begin to see shipments from China of chickens that are raised in the U.S. for human consumption, which are then shipped to China for processing before being sold back in America.

“With American chicken now one step away from being processed in China and sent back to the U.S. for our consumption, immediate answers are needed and actions must be taken.” Brown said. “The Administration can begin by better informing Congress on its efforts to investigate Chinese processing plants. And the Chinese government must work with our officials to ensure the safety of its products.”

Along with the overall safety of foods imported from China, the effectiveness of China’s food safety regulation, and the effectiveness of U.S. government regulation of foods imported from China, Sen. Brown includes as a concern the labeling of the products. The question is raised about whether current labels are adequate in helping American consumers determine the safety of food products marked “made in the U.S.” if some of the ingredients come from China.

Last month, Petco and Petsmart announced that they will be phasing out pet treats made in China.

Click here to watch a webcast of the hearing.

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