Here at Petful, we’re constantly tracking pet food recalls.
For several years now, beginning in 2016, we’ve heard rumblings about the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supposedly coming down hard on a brand of treats called Canine Carry Outs.
Canine Carry Outs are “poison,” claim multiple posts from concerned consumers online. “Just terrible…. Awful!”
Dr. Chloe Charlton, DVM, of Town & Country Animal Hospital, of Little Rock, Arkansas, posted a dramatic warning on Facebook: “DO. NOT. FEED. THESE. TO. YOUR. DOG.”
The veterinarian’s April 2016 post, which went viral, shared the news that a “report to the FDA has come back conclusive.”
“THESE TREATS COULD POISON YOUR DOG,” Dr. Charlton warned in all caps over a photo of the product.
“So the FDA confirmed that something in these treats caused the illness?” asked a commenter below her post.
“Yup!” came the reply from the vet, who suggested hidden melamine may be to blame.
Nine days later, Dr. Charlton followed up.
“This is the FDA report that I referenced in my original post,” she wrote. “They recommended removal of these treats.” In red pen, she circled a phrase in the attached letter: “removal of all jerky treats is recommended.”
The only problem?
The FDA has not confirmed that something in the treats caused the illness, and the federal agency has not recommended removal of Canine Carry Outs from the market.
Want the Facts?
Here’s what we know:
- Dr. Charlton submitted a urine sample to an FDA-affiliated lab from a small dog who had experienced Fanconi syndrome-like symptoms. The dog had been fed Canine Carry Outs (beef flavor) every day for a year, according to Dr. Charlton.
- The test results of this one dog’s urine seemed to “indicate the presence of Fanconi syndrome” in the dog, according to the letter from the lab to Dr. Charlton, dated March 24, 2016.
- The treats themselves apparently were not tested.
- Despite being emblazoned with the phrase “FDA REPORT” in huge red type (added not by the FDA, but by Dr. Charlton), this was not what most people think of when they hear about an “FDA report.” Rather, it was only a quick summary of urinalysis results sent to a veterinarian from an FDA-affiliated testing facility.
- The letter recommended that jerky treats be removed from this specific dog’s diet — it didn’t recommend a blanket removal of Canine Carry Outs from the market.
“Yelling Fire in a Crowded Theater”
The veterinarian’s posts didn’t escape the attention of a few skeptical consumers.
For example, one commenter, Amanda M., posted: “Wow, and yet you claimed you had an FDA report about the treats, not a urinalysis that has nothing to do with your original claim.”
She continued: “What [you’ve] done amounts to yelling fire in a crowded theater.”
Another commenter chimed in: “You had stated that the FDA recommended discontinuing these treats. That makes it sound like a possible recall, or ban. [But it was] more like a recommendation for the one dog and not as a whole…. I hate to spread false or inaccurate information.”
Finally, yet another commenter pointed out that “Canine Carry Outs” weren’t even mentioned in the letter from the lab.
“Better Safe Than Sorry,” Says Dr. Charlton
Dr. Charlton defended herself on Facebook, saying, “Since I made the post, other vets have contacted me saying they have seen a similar case.”
She added: “I say it’s better safe than sorry. I felt that if I could save a life through a Facebook post, it was worth it.”
She also began walking back some of the talk about “conclusive” evidence, writing, “The FDA is still performing tests, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
Contacted by Petful in 2016, when this article was originally published, Dr. Charlton first asked us for more information before she might agree to be interviewed on the matter. “Can you tell me a little bit about … the purpose of the article?” she asked.
We replied: “The article will seek to clarify what we know and don’t know about Canine Carry Outs and sicknesses in dogs. A lot of our visitors are under the impression that there’s an FDA warning regarding this product, so we’ll try to present a full picture of what’s going on.”
Dr. Charlton then replied, 2 days later: “I don’t think I’ll be doing the interview. Thank you for thinking of me.”
We also contacted Dr. Urs Giger, PD, DVM, of the University of Pennsylvania, the lab technician who is quoted in Dr. Charlton’s letter.
He, too, declined to comment, noting, “We keep our clients’ information confidential. We do not discuss any animals/patients, sample submissions, test reports and/or website postings from our PennGen laboratory with others than the submitting veterinarian, owner or agent.”
In other words, the letter wasn’t even for public release.
Maker of Canine Carry Outs Responds
The J.M. Smucker Company, the company that makes Canine Carry Outs, has vigorously defended the treats.
“We are extremely disappointed in the inaccurate information circulating online regarding our Canine Carry Outs products,” said Maribeth Burns, vice president of corporate communications, in a 2016 interview with Petful. “For nearly 120 years, product safety and quality have been of paramount importance to our company.”
She added: “Canine Carry Outs do not contain melamine and are not a ‘jerky treat’ like those referenced in the document.”
Lots of Genuine Confusion — And What We Really Know
Dr. Charlton’s Facebook post has caused confusion around the current status of the product. For example, a woman named Helene K. posted (inaccurately) on Dog Food Advisor about a supposed “FDA warning on these treats.”
Here on Petful, a reader posted: “Her vet page has 100% concluded these treats are harmful. She also has a picture of the FDA report…. The FDA concluded it was that specific treat.”
That’s simply not true, and we feel compelled to clear things up.
Here’s the truth, as we know it today:
- The FDA did not conclude that this specific treat caused a dog to be sick — the lab concluded only that the dog was sick.
- Of course it’s very possible that there is indeed a problem with the treats. We just don’t know that for sure. We have seen a number of anecdotal reports around the internet from people who say their dogs got very sick or even died after consuming Canine Carry Outs.
- Yet there is no FDA recall or warning currently. “We can confirm that there is not a recall on the Canine Carry Outs products and brand,” said Burns of J.M. Smucker.
- The FDA, in a statement to Petful, has confirmed: “The Facebook posts you are asking about are not citing an FDA report, and the red lettering was not added by the FDA or the testing lab. It is not an FDA warning, and the agency has not taken any action against Canine Carry Outs.”
- In a related matter, despite persistent rumors since at least early 2015, there is no “antifreeze” in Canine Carry Outs. As Petful and Snopes have pointed out before, the ingredient propylene glycol is very different from ethylene glycol (antifreeze). Propylene glycol is recognized as generally safe in dog food — though we don’t like seeing it in ingredients lists.
Despite all these important clarifications, we still recommend that you choose not to feed Canine Carry Outs to your dog.
Besides the complaints we’ve heard about illnesses, these treats have what we’d consider to be subpar ingredients, such as corn syrup, animal fat, animal digest, BHA, artificial colors and flavors, and the aforementioned propylene glycol.
We’ve also been advising against feeding jerky treats for years now. Says Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, writing for Petful: “I can’t tell you if they’re safe or unsafe, but I can tell you your pet doesn’t need ANY of these treats — so please don’t buy them.”
Our final take on this Canine Carry Outs mess:
- Dr. Charlton seems to be a great veterinarian who truly cares about the animals and is looking out for their safety.
- We agree with her that it’s “better safe than sorry” to let people know that Canine Carry Outs may have sickened one of her patients. She means well.
- We just don’t agree with her giant leap to conclusions and some of the tactics she used to draw attention to her news.
Of course, if anything changes and these popular treats do actually get recalled, we’ll update this article right away and send out an urgent pet food recall alert to our email subscribers.
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This article originally appeared in 2016 and has been regularly updated. It was last reviewed Aug. 7, 2019.