Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has fined importers of instant "self-heating" hotpots containing meat, which is the latest food craze. The authorities said in a statement on Monday that it has also seized the products.
"AVA has not approved the import of instant hotpot products containing meat such as Ba Shu Hotpot," the agency told The Straits Times. "As AVA did not approve these products for sale, the 'AVA certificate' circulating online is fake."
Ba Shu Hotpot is also known as Ba Shu Lan Ren, which is a Chengdu-based instant hotpot brand. It comes in several mala flavours: original, rice, meat and beef and is one of several instant hotpot brands that is being sold online on websites such as Qoo10 and others.
The products come with a heat pack, which generates enough heat to steam a small bowl of ingredients for up to 20 minutes, when activated by room-temperature water.
Members of the public have been advised to purchase food from reputable sources, and to exercise discretion when buying food online. "Food products containing meat can be imported from only approved sources that comply with AVA food-safety standards and requirements, as these products could carry animal and food-borne diseases of public health and trade importance," the statement added.
AVA added: "Licensed food importers are required to ensure that the food products comply with the AVA's food-safety requirements and standards, regardless of the channel of sale."
Last December, Ba Shu Lan Ren launched its hotpots and this June it has told The Straits Times that it has six main suppliers in Singapore. Joneve Trading is one of those suppliers which had been importing the hotpots since February. Over 10,000 individual packs were snapped up and the hotpots proved to be so popular that in May.
On Monday, the firm's co-founder, Eve Lim told The Straits Times that she was informed by AVA in early August to stop the import and sale of the hotpots.
AVA assured that it conducts inspections and surveillance, including sampling for testing, on imported food products and ensures that they comply with the necessary requirements and standards.
If convicted of importing food from unapproved sources, the suspects can be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to $50,000 for the first conviction. In case of a second or subsequent conviction, they can be jailed for up to three years and/or fined up to $100,000.