S'pore self-heating hotpot distributor blames agency for not declaring meat in instant hotpots

They also insisted their AVA cargo permit was legitimate — but that may not be the point.

Jeanette Tan | October 11, 2017, 04:52 PM

On Monday, we told you about these really nifty-looking self-heating mala hotpots that turned out to have not been approved for import by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

When AVA realised many of these hotpots contained meat — the problematic ingredient, which we do know when it comes from China, isn't always ahem, guaranteed to be what they say it is — they clamped down on all the people selling it (the meat-containing ones) online, seized all their unsold stock and also slapped fines on all of them.

We understand that some online platforms like Shopee have removed their listings of the non-approved product after our report on this story was published as well.

Enter Joneve Trading

Now, one of the main players who were peddling this, Joneve Trading, has emerged to issue a lengthy statement clarifying their position and role in all this.

From as early as in March, they were among the first to advertise these on their Facebook page:

The company sold the hotpots via Qoo10:
In comments on the post above, it also said the hotpots were imported from China.

In July, one of Joneve's owners, Eve Lim, told The Straits Times in a feature on these hotpots that she was very fascinated by the concept of the product and so decided to start bringing them in for distribution here.

Lim's company had also at one point posted an image of an AVA-issued cargo permit, which authorised them to import "Instant pack foods (veg, vermicelli, sesame oil, base soup, quail egg) comes with manuals, fork and hot pack container" from Guangzhou Huangshi, China:

Via Joneve Trading Facebook page.

We also previously highlighted that this list of ingredients happens to exclude any meat products, which the AVA told Mothership constitutes a false declaration:

"The Cargo Clearance Permit (CCP) that Joneve Trading applied for, was a permit for food items which do not contain meat and seafood. In this case, it was a false declaration as the instant hotpot product does contain meat. AVA has taken enforcement action against the importer and seized the products."

"Did not take part" in declaration process

In response to this issue, Wednesday morning saw Joneve's statement claiming that it was not personally involved in the declaration process to AVA:

"2. Every shipment we imported into Singapore, we submitted the documents and detailed ingredients to whichever declaring agent company that is assigned and then they submit the them to AVA. One of the example email is as sent like the following with a picture of product ingredients attached:

Add on to previous email:

Each box of instant hotpot is USD$2.10 (CHINA YUAN 14/box). Each waybill is 48 boxes hence, USD$100.80.

The ingredient is as follow per box:

A vegetable pack

A vermicelli pack

Base soup made of chili paste & butter

A quail egg pack (3 qty inside)

A beef ham sausage

A sesame oil

A heating pack to warm the ready food

Then a cargo permit is issued to us by AVA and then our cargo will be released from custom and delivery company will proceed delivery to us. This is our usual shipment import process. Our company did not take part in the actual declaring process, we merely submitted the necessary documents to the declaring agent company. (emphases ours)"

They also attached a series of images including this screenshot from their email:

Screenshot from Joneve Trading's Facebook post

It appears to show that in their email to the permit-applying agency, Dragonlink Pte Ltd, Joneve does list "A beef ham sausage" among its list of package components.


Fined $1,000 and had all stock seized

They were also pretty transparent in furnishing a photo of the enforcement letter issued to them by the AVA:

Photo via Joneve Trading's Facebook page

The letter does also, however, mention that the hotpots also contained "chicken wings, duck intestines and beef meat" — at least two of which were not declared by Joneve.

AVA also clarified with Mothership that Joneve had only brought in hotpots that contained meat ingredients, so all of their stock was not approved for import by the authorities.

According to the letter, Joneve was fined $1,000 for this.

Joneve's statement goes on to say that it stopped selling their hotpots since August, when this enforcement first took place. AVA was in touch with Joneve's hotpot supplier, but the China factory declined to provide certain information requested, citing concerns of rivals picking up their recipes or trade secrets.

Bought a hotpot from them? You can get a refund

Now, Joneve says it has found an AVA-approved factory that can supply a new range hotpots designed and formulated by them.

Once sample packs are produced, they will be sent for testing and approval by a lab recommended by AVA. Joneve said it is aiming for an end-of-year launch of its own range of self-heating hotpots that will incorporate Korean and Singaporean spicy and non-spicy flavours.

Turning to its current range of non-approved hotpots, Joneve told us they have "given strict instructions" to their roughly 50 distributors to recall any unopened or unconsumed stock it may have sold and to issue refunds to the customers who bought them.

In a follow up response to Mothership, Joneve said they have been informed of the quantity of their distributors' unsold stock, which will be returned to them in the coming two weeks.

You can read their statement in full here:

Top photo via Joneve Trading's Facebook page