After lizard scares, Irvins Salted Egg's CEO says food safety processes being reviewed

Teng Yong Ping
Lifestyle Editor
Left: Irvins Salted Egg’s CEO, Irvin Gunawan. Right: A dead lizard found in a bag of salted egg fish skin bought by Jane Holloway in Bangkok. (PHOTOS: Screenshot from SCMP video, Decha Holloway)

Singapore snack company, Irvins Salted Egg, said on Wednesday (13 February) that it is reviewing its production processes after multiple customers found dead lizards in its products.

Responding to queries from Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, the CEO and founder of the brand, Irvin Gunawan, said the company would never compromise on food safety and quality.

Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore reported earlier that Gunawan was aware of dead lizards appearing in the company’s products as early as August last year, months before he apologised publicly for only one case in January.

The Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) had said earlier on Monday that it had inspected Irvins Salted Egg’s premises and asked the company to improve its quality control checks. No penalties were imposed on the company by the food regulatory agency.

Gunawan, an Indonesia-born Singapore resident, said in an email on 13 February:

“Following the recent posting of a contaminant, we immediately reported the incident to AVA which has since conducted a thorough investigation.

“Food safety and quality is our foremost priority on which we will never compromise. During its investigation, AVA noted that we have taken measures to strengthen our quality control checks, and was assured that we are also reviewing our entire value chain to ensure that stringent quality control standards are upheld from supply to production.

I would like to thank customers who have continued to trust and support us. Your faith in us is what motivates us to always strive to deliver the best quality products to you.”

Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore uncovered multiple cases of customers finding dead lizards in Irvins’ snack products after a Thai woman in Bangkok revealed on Facebook in December that her brother had found a dead gecko in a pack of the brand’s salted egg fish skin.

Dead lizards found in Irvins Salted Egg snacks by three different customers. (PHOTOS: Decha Holloway, Serina G, Kevin Nguyen)

Two other customers – Serina G, a Malaysian, and Kevin Nguyen, a Vietnamese – had told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore that they also found the dead lizards in their Irvins snack pouches. They separately made the discovery in March and August last year. In emails seen by Yahoo Lifestyle SingaporeGunawan personally apologised to these customers in August 2018 after they complained to the company.

AVA said the affected packet in Bangkok was produced at Irvins’ previous premises, which ceased operations in November 2018. In December, the company moved its production facilities to JTC Food Hub in Senoko Drive, a building housing various food manufacturing companies.

AVA did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore’s queries regarding how many complaints of contaminants in Irvins products it had received.

Gunawan’s emails to affected customers showed that he was aware of dead lizards appearing in the company’s products as early as August last year, months before he apologised in a press statement over the latest case in January. His statement did not mention other similar incidents.

The Malaysian customer, who wanted to be known only as Serina, reported her incident to AVA in August. After investigation, the AVA informed her in October that Irvins’ premises were “free of pests”.

Irvins produces all its products in Singapore and distributes them to its stores overseas. The brand has seven stores in Singapore and three stores each in Hong Kong and the Philippines.