Irvins Salted Egg founder says hygiene better at new facilities in email apology to Thai customer

Teng Yong Ping
·Lifestyle Editor
Lizard in Irvins Salted Egg fish skin snack packaging found by Decha Holloway. (PHOTOS: Decha Holloway)
Lizard in Irvins Salted Egg fish skin snack packaging found by Decha Holloway. (PHOTOS: Decha Holloway)

Famous snack maker Irvins Salted Egg is in the midst of a crisis after a Thai customer revealed that he found a dead lizard in his packet of salted egg fish skin.

The grisly discovery was made by Decha Holloway, who recounted his experience to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore by telephone on Wednesday (2 January).

Decha’s sister, Jane Holloway, bought the affected Irvins product from a supermarket in K Village shopping mall in Bangkok. When she posted photos on Facebook of a lizard fried to a crisp covered with salted egg seasoning, the post went viral.

Irvins Salted Egg apologised on Wednesday in a press statement, saying that it would recall its affected products and extend refunds to customers.

Decha is a Thai national living in Siem Reap who is visiting his family in Bangkok for the holiday season. The 47-year-old businessman told Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore that he was concerned for his elderly mother’s health, who ate the bag of snacks before him.

Asked whether the lizard could have entered the packet after it was opened, Decha said that was impossible. “The gecko was completely dry and covered with the ingredients. If it were a live gecko that got in, it wouldn’t be completely dry as if it had been cooked. And there would have been a smell. Hopefully all the bacteria from the animal had been killed.”

Decha shot an angry email to Irvins Salted Egg after finding what he called a “house gecko” in the food packaging. He also made a complaint to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) through its website.

Irvin Gunawan, the founder and CEO of the company, replied Decha in an email seen by Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore. In the email dated 31 December, Gunawan said he was “terribly terribly sorry” for the lizard found in Decha’s snack pouch.

Gunawan also offered to refund the purchase and reimburse Decha for any medical bills arising from the incident. The CEO said the company had moved to new production facilities in December, and the hygiene processes would be better at the new facilities.

“We are doing the product recall from the stores immediately,” wrote Gunawan. “I know it’s extremely disgusting and I am as upset as you are that this has happened. We have recently moved to a new production building at Foodhub in December and our hygiene and checking procedure is much much stricter now in addition to a much newer clean building so I have confidence that it won’t happen again. It is no excuse but please trust that we are taking this very seriously.”

“I’m really sorry for creating this mess and ruining your end of year,” Gunawan added.

The JTC Food Hub in Senoko Drive is a building housing various food manufacturing companies.

Irvins Salted Egg 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.

The company is famous for its salted egg- flavoured snacks such as potato chips and fried fish skin, which are very popular among locals and tourists. The snacks were invented by Gunawan’s restaurant, Leban HK Cafe, in Upper Thomson, and have spawned other brands who have mimicked the savoury tidbits.

Gunawan previously said that he insisted that his products remain home-made so as to retain quality.

The CEO declined comment for this story. Responding to queries from Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, AVA said it had received feedback on the matter and is investigating.

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