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Death Of Dogs And Cats Blamed On Chinese Pet Treats

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(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS WASHINGTON) – At least 360 dogs and one cat reportedly have died in the U.S. after eating chicken jerky pet treats made in China.

Continuing claims of illnesses tied to the products have topped 2,200, federal veterinary health officials announced.

On Wednesday, Dennis Adkins from Illinois sued both Nestle Purina Petcare and Wal-Mart Stores, alleging that his 9-year old Pomeranian died from eating chicken jerky treats the defendants knew posed a substantial risk of illness or death.

Adkins holds that a 9-year old dog dying from eating a dog treat is not, “what nature intended.”

According to the jdjournal,the federal lawsuit filed in Chicago seeks class-action status. Adkins, 57, claims that the packaging of Nestle Purina’s Waggin’ Train Yam Good dog treats claims the product as “just wholesome goodness” and “it’s what nature intended.”

Food and Drug Administration officials this week issued the first summary of reports of pet deaths linked to the jerky treats in the past 18 months, along with the strongest suggestion to date that owners might want to avoid the products all together.

“The FDA is reminding pet owners that jerky pet treats are not necessary for pets to have a fully balanced diet, so eliminating them will not harm pets,” agency officials said in an online report.

U.S. regulations allow pet food, including pet treats, to be irradiated up to a maximum of 50 kiloGrays to provide microbial disinfection or elimination of other pathogens, according to NBC News.

By contrast, most foods for human consumption are limited to far lower levels, 1 kiloGray maximum for fresh foods and 3 kiloGrays for fresh shell eggs to eliminate salmonella, for instance. The upper limit is 30 kiloGrays for spices or dry dehydrated seasonings — except for frozen packaged meats for astronauts, which may be irradiated at levels up to 44 kiloGrays.

It’s not clear whether or how irradiation may contribute to illnesses in pets. The process is widely regarded as safe and even necessary by food safety experts such as Christina Bruhn, a researcher in food science and technology at the University of California at Davis.

Keith Schopp, a spokesman for Nestle Purina PetCare Co., confirmed that his firm’s Waggin’ Train brand products are irradiated.

“This is similar to what is used in sterilizing spices, apples, tomatoes and meat for human food,” he said in an email to NBC News. “The extra precaution is taken to assure pet owners the treats they buy are safe and healthy.”

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