Take A Lesson From Optima Dog Food in China: Control Your Distributors

Monday, January 5, 2009 0:56
Posted in category Going to Market

Last year, when lead paint Barbie dolls and melamine laced pet food were the headlines, there was a lot of finger pointing going on.

Congress, the media, and American consumers were all enraged by China’s lack of standards, while brands were focused on how they needed to develop systems for dealing with the influx of products that they were now going to be held responsible for.

Well – the other shoe has dropped, and this time it is (ironically enough) an American Dog Food firm who has found themselves in trouble… IN CHINA.

US-made Optima dog food in China may have killed my dog is a post written by Suzhou based Ryan McLaughlin where he chronicles the fact that his dog’s liver had failed from dog food contaminated with aflatoxin:

Apparently since the end of November about 30 dogs have died in the Yangtze Delta (Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, etc.) of liver complications – and they all ate Optima dog food.

According to the pet shop, the food was contaminated with “黄曲霉素”, or aflatoxin, an extremely toxic and carcinogenic fungus that can contaminate grains, spices and nuts.All the dog food was therefore brought in through the hot and humid Guangzhou, where it sat in a non-temperature controlled warehouse long enough for the aflatoxin to develop in the food.

Where this gets interesting and disturbing though is the supply chain of this product is really convoluted, and Optima itself says that it does not distribute to China:

Optima Professional Pet Foods is a brand under the Doane International Pet Products. According to the Optima flyer we had lying around the dog food is imported into China through Taiwanese company Natural Pet and then distributed in Mainland China via 北京裕康园商贸有限公司 (Beijing) and 上海瑞宠商贸有限公司 (Shanghai).

… and as all good companies do in the same position, Optima has essentially stepped back by saying they are not at fault, and that as they are not managing the supply chain to China that it is not their fault.


In fact, like Mattel, Optima is in FULL CONTROL of their supply chain, and should be all over themselves to work with the 30 or so affected families whose pets are sick from THEIR product.

Sure – the point can be made that it is actually the Taiwan distributor who is at fault for not throwing the stuff away after the Olympics, but it is STILL THEIR DISTRIBUTOR who THEY HAVE AUTHORIZED to sell THEIR PRODUCT.

What I would be interested in seeing is how the US FDA could at this point get involved as well.  Not that this is a major international issue that needs to be overdone, but as they have just set up their office, and as this incident clearly highlights some short coming in China’s system for cold chain, reporting, and accountability… I think this would be a great opportunity for them to get involved.

In the end, brands who are using distributors in China (or anywhere else) need to take note of this.  It is an issue that will impact Optima (see all the negative press they are getting… in Chinese and English), and it can happen to you. your distributors are YOUR distributors, and at the end of the day they represent your company.

I would never advise a client to simply give distributors free rein over preserving quality control anywhere, but if one of my clients did… I would advise them that should something go wrong, they would own it too.

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2 Responses to “Take A Lesson From Optima Dog Food in China: Control Your Distributors”

  1. Josh says:

    January 5th, 2009 at 3:00 am

    I completely agree and hope that many other companies take note of this incident for future reference. While throwing away the product after being detained during the Olympics might have cost Optima a few dollars, I hope that the consequences of not doing so deter any companies from considering that an option in the future.

  2. jenni says:

    January 14th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I had an incedent with the australian optimum where’s a whole bag of 8 kg puppy contained mouldy kibble, complained to the mars company, they sent out a voucher ? as replacement ,….I also had a mysterious death of one puppy fed on optimum with renal failure she developed it after the litter was introduced to solids ( optimum kibble) & meat is there a tie in ??????????????