Shanghai Daily-late and dollar short

The Shanghai Daily finally got around to reporting on the emergency recall of dog food after pets poisoned and seem just as confused as the rest of the net on where the Optima dog food comes from and how it ended up killing dogs in China (including my baby).

The site reports:

Since the end of November at least 20 dogs are believed to have died in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou from liver complications. Some pets died within 10 days of showing symptoms.

An agent of Shanghai Yidi Pet Co Ltd, a Shanghai dealer of Optima food, admitted that a “severe quality problem” was found in the batch, and they were recalling the products.

Yidi said pet owners should return the contaminated food to be exchanged for other brands.

Yidi purchased the batch of Optima dog food from a Taiwan supplier, according to an agent who declined to be named.

An imported feedstuff registration list posted by China’s Ministry of Agriculture shows that the Optima dog food’s production enterprise is Australia-based Doane International Pet Products.

But Tan said her purchase order said the food was made in the United States. “American-made Optima is a very famous brand. That’s part of the reason I chose it,” Tan added.

Optima - Made in the USA?The confusion over where Optima is actually made is rampant in the Chinese forums discussing this as well – with most claiming Optima is made in Australia – but Optima’s Web site clearly indicates that it is “Made in U.S.A.

Optima is owned by Doane International Pet Products, as the SH Daily reports, however where SH Daily says it is Australia-based doesn’t jive. According to the company’s history, the company was originally based in Missouri, but moved to Brentwood, Tennessee, after a merger in 1998 with Windy Hill Pet Food. This corresponds with both the company’s Web site registration, as well as Optima’s address. No mention of Australia at all.

I’m generally not one to go looking for conspiracies or cover-ups, but if SH Daily is right and China’s Ministry of Agriculture shows Optima pet food coming from Australia – there is a massive failure in the transparency of the distribution chain.

When this all started (December 22, 2008) I e-mailed Optima via their Web contact form:

My name is Ryan McLaughlin and I am a Canadian living in China.

I have a one year old golden retriever and since we got her last February we\’ve been feeding her Optima Puppy Formula (alternating chicken and lamb).

As I\’m guessing you\’re well aware, the local media and message boards are filling with reports that Optima food is killing dogs due to contaminants that are causing liver failure.

My wife is Chinese and so has been following all this in Chinese, as well as in dialog with our local Optima dealing pet shop, but I\’ve not seen anything online about it.

So, to be blunt about it, are you killing my dog?

Ryan McLaughlin

The e-mail was sent to Optima’s sales department, which seems to use the address [email protected] ( domain expired December 28, 2008) and then was forwarded to Shirley Yu from an e-mail using the domain – which appears to be connected to Mars, Inc.. Her reply:

Dated December 26, 2008
Mr. Mclaughlin,

What you described in your mail surprises me. Optima pet food is produced in US and only sold in Taiwan around the world. As a business representive of Optima pet food in Taiwan, we have never been allowed to export any pet foods to PRC either from Taiwan or US.

For your information, Optima had been launched in Taiwan for over 10 years, and never have lethal cases reported. Optima is the top 4 brand in Taiwan market and famous for it’s superior quality and palatability. If you have queries about petfood you bought in China, I would suggest you to directly contact the retailer which you buy products from.

Best Regards,

Shirley Yu

My response:

Dated December 26, 2008
Hi Shirley,

When you say “Optima pet food is produced in US and only sold in Taiwan around the world” are you saying that Optima isn’t exported from the US to any other countries but Taiwan? As that seems to contradict what the Optima Web site indicates.

You said you are a business representative for Optima in Taiwan – but did not indicate your company, nor your title at the company.

According to the OPTIMA literature we received from our local pet shop, it lists Natural Pet (in Taiwan) as the distributor for Optima. Are you the only Optima distributor? Natural Pet’s Web site ( very clearly shows Optima as a brand they distribute and shows distribution to Shanghai, Beijing and Nanjing in the People’s Republic of China.

Our dog has since been diagnosed with exposure to aflatoxin from Optima brand dog food here in China and is in critical condition, not expected to recover. If someone is selling Optima dog food (widely) in China, particularly poisoned dog food, I would think that your company, Optima and Doane would know or want to know about it.


To date I’ve still not received a reply from Shirley, nor from CCing the message to the [email protected] address.

At the end of the day, I really don’t expect this convoluted path to lead anywhere, nor do I believe that Optima, Doane, Natural Pet, Shanghai Yidi Pet Co Ltd, or whoever the fuck is actually responsible for killing my dog to owe up to the true responsibility of that action. How can they? Money? Apologies? None of it will bring back Addie. None of it will fill that which they have taken away from us. And really, none of it will ever allow me to forgive them.

Tomorrow we meet with the distributor to come to some sort of compensation agreement. Part of me wants to fight as hard as I can and reign what fire I can down on the parties responsible for killing a dog I loved so deeply, but another part of me looks forward to being able to lay this all to rest so we can move on and begin to heal.

Ultimately, I know that if I travel down this road of seeking retribution and justice, no matter what I am able to do, I will only find disappointment.

8 Responses

  1. So sorry to read about this — especially your irreplaceable loss. I’m also sorry we all live in an age where apparently, Legal shuts up all the apologies to keep things hush-hush, rather than someone owning up to the fact that poison was in their product. Please keep us updated on what happens.

  2. Eff Em alright!

    Funny they should be involved as their had their own aflatoxin scandal with their Pedigree brand in Taiwan. They ended up threatening to sue their accusers. Can’t see how they are linked to optima though.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss. It’s so frustrating when pet food companies seem to be more interested in secrecy and cover-ups than the truth. I hope we learn some answers since other companies may have bought the contaminated corn and made pet food with it. We don’t have any way of knowing!

  4. Ryan,

    Have you emailed chinalawblog about this? Dan might be able to tell you your chances of retribution, and it seems to me you as a customer in china might be successful in suing an American company here, especially as a westerner.

    Though you are right, any legal result would do nothing to take away the pain of your loss, it might be something to think about.

  5. Optima is produced by Doane Pet in the States. The e-mail address @nappinc actually means North American Pet Products Inc., which was acquired by Doane Pet over 10 years ago. Doane Pet acquired NAPP because of its presence in the Asia market, including Taiwan, HK and Japan. Hence it is likely that Shirley is from the office of NAPP in Taiwan. It is not uncommon that petfood is registered as produced in one place but in fact comes from another place. Please bear in mind that because of BSE, it was difficult to register petfood that comes from US. As Australia is free of BSE and Avian Flu, it is very likely that Australia is declared as the place of manufacture where the actual products are imported from US. Those in the market may also remember that Royal Canin that are usually manufactured and imported from France (I guess registered as from France) also turn to their factory in Brazil to supply the products to the China market at the heat of BSE outbreak.

  6. Optima is a brand OWNED by Doane International Pet Products(formerly North American Pet Products) who is owned by Mars. Doane Pet Care is also owned by Mars but seems to be a private label US domestic operation.

    OWNERSHIP does not mean it was manufactured by Doane/Mars. Contract manufacturing is common in many industries.

    Illegal importation of pet food into China is also common. Equally common is for brand owners to choose not to know what happens with their products once they have been sold it to the distributor.

    What needs to be resolved is 1) Who owns the Optima brand that killed Addie? Mars/Doane denies that it is their product so is it counterfeit? 2) Where was it made – Australia or USA? 3) Did Natural Pet distribute it to China and if so, as a Mars/Doane customer, did Mars/Doane know that Natural Pet distributed Optima (real or counterfeit) to China?

    Natural Pet’s website say they distribute Holistic Recipe. Users of this product should ask if it is sourced from Mars/Doane and/or from the same manufacturer of the Optima that killed Addie.

  7. How so very sad to loose a loved my husband and I just lost our lab/newfoundland mix, Tonka, in October to cancer. And they are our ‘children’, a part of our lives, a part of our soul. How blessed Addie was to have such beautiful and caring parents in her world. I hope you continue your quest in securing the answers to your questions – and yes, though it cannot take away your pain, your loss – it gains the ‘principle right’ of ensuring it WILL NOT happen to others and corporations have to owe up to what they have produced. Take care and keep posting what info you find.

  8. Pingback: Optima Pet Food Saga: Media’s double-edged sword | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

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