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When Leesa, a Lorette, Manitoba, dog owner switched to Costco’s Kirkland brand lamb-and-rice formula for her older overweight pet, it seemed like a good move – for the dog and for her pocketbook.

But soon, like other Kirkland dog-food purchasers, she found her pet’s health deteriorating, so she went online to learn why.

“Within a week she was refusing food, vomiting, drooling excessively, and panting,” Leesa wrote several days ago on a consumer-complaint website. “I Googled these symptoms and came up with a result of the dog had eaten something toxic. I immediately cut out this food, switched to Purina One and it took about 10 days, but she has her appetite back, has stopped salivating/vomiting and is a much happier dog. Something is not right with the Kirkland brand.”

Alda Wirsche of Calgary was not so lucky. Her Yorkshire terrier puppy died after eating pet jerky treats from China that were purchased from Costco. Within three weeks of beginning Vitalife Duck Tenders from Costco, Rosie “was lethargic. She started throwing up, peeing a lot and just not herself.”

“Her kidneys were shot. They were absolutely destroyed,” said veterinarian Julie Schell, who is saying publicly she believes Costco’s product is to blame.

Attention has been focused on China in the 5,600 cases of renal failure reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2007. In most cases – including 1,000 deaths – the suspected cause has been duck, chicken or sweet potato jerky imported from China, sold under numerous brand names.

Now, questions are being raised about how these products are being handled once they reach the U.S. and if those practices are causing or contributing to some of the problems dog owners are reporting.

Two former warehouse workers for Normerica Inc., a Costco supplier, are speaking out, claiming they were routinely required to cut open bags of stale, past-due-date dog-food products – including those with mold – and repackage and redate them.

Their job at the Ontario warehouse involved removing old products that were stale or overstocked, then repackaging them in different brand-name bags, reported CBC News.

“Some [of the jerky treats] had been sitting there for years. Dated back to 2008. We would use X-Acto knives to open the packages and then repackage them under new [product] labels and change the date on the new package,” said one of the former employees.

“It was disgusting … the warehouse wasn’t clean enough to have open food.”

“Some [treats] that were not packaged properly got moldy,” said the other former employee.

Colin Gleason, president of Normerica, denies the company repackages outdated products.

“We do not repackage stale product and sell it with a new date code,” he said in a statement. “Our company policy on any product that is approaching the date code is to donate it locally to animal shelters.”

Gleason said the warehouse is subject to outside inspections.

“Our manufacturing facilities are certified with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). As such they are audited annually and certified to the same caliber as any human food manufacturing facility. Additionally, we are subject to random audits by our retail customers as well as inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.”

But the experience of Andrea Challis, an Ontario dog owner, seems closer to the shabby practices described by the two warehouse workers.

Challis said she bought Vitalife’s chicken fingers – a Normerica brand – at Costco. The chicken treats are made in Canada, unlike the duck and sweet potato treats imported from China.

“I bought the treats for my three-year-old mini golden doodle Avery, thinking they were a good alternative to the treats made in China,” said Challis.

“When I opened the bag, there was mold everywhere. The best-before date was November 2015. I wrote to Vitalife and never received a response. I returned the treats to Costco, filled out a report and was told that someone would follow up,” Challis told CBC.

“Costco’s response was nonchalant … like they’d heard it before. I never heard back.”

While Loblaw, another Canadian retailer, has taken the precaution of removing Normerica’s dog-food products from its shelves, Costco has not.

Company spokesman Ron Damiani said none of the products imported by Normerica and sold at Costco go through the Ontario warehouse.

“Random testing is also conducted on each container of product before it ships,” said Damiani.

“There’s no way Costco can test for something when they don’t know why the dogs are dying from these treats. Even the FDA doesn’t know why they are dying,” said Wirsche.

The fact is, researchers don’t know why dogs are getting sick and dying.

“To date, testing for contaminants in jerky pet treats has not revealed a cause for the illnesses,” the FDA said.

FDA testing has been conducted for salmonella, metals, pesticides, mold, rat poison and a variety of toxins, among other things.

“Testing has also included measuring the nutritional composition of jerky pet treats to verify that they contain the ingredients listed on the label and do not contain ingredients that are not listed on the label,” the FDA statement said.

Still, the China connection remains suspect.

In April, WND reported on the seizure of 2.4 million fake pills that were hidden in boxes marked “Chinese tea.”

The fake Chinese pills seized in France were labeled for various treatments, including erectile dysfunction.

Authorities said some of the products contained no active chemical ingredients, and others were holding doses that did not match their packaging.

Anyone who had been sold the pills could have developed a variety of health complications, authorities said.

It’s part of a story WND has reported for years.

In the U.S., one recent recall of a faulty Chinese product was for a surge protector that started fires, including one that caused $916,000 damage to one home. There also have been carcinogen-laced foods for adults, dangerous toys for children and contaminated treats and food for pets. WND reported a Chinese pipeline was supplying falsified driver’s licenses and IDs to Americans.

Fake electronics have been found in thermal weapons sights delivered to the U.S. Army, computer chips were found to have been recycled, toy castles had parts that could choke children, kids’ jewelry was poisoned, air pumps exploded and oil-filled heaters caused fires. Also, food products have been tainted with pesticides, carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs. China was found to be raising many fish products intended for the U.S. in water contaminated with raw sewage and then compensating by using dangerous drugs and chemicals, many of which are banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

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