Food safety complaints

What to do if you want to:

How to make a food complaint

Discovering a food complaint, such as a foreign object in food, is a very unpleasant experience, but may not necessarily pose a serious health risk (see our Common Food Complaints Leaflet). It is important that officer time is spent dealing with food complaints where there is a risk to public health, such as:

  • Food which is unfit for human consumption.
  • Food which contains a foreign object which poses a serious health risk (e.g. glass, metal).
  • An allergen free meal has been requested but has caused an allergic reaction.
  • Food which contains any insects or other matter which suggests a particular problem at the place of retail sale, manufacture etc. (see our Common Food Complaints Leaflet).

If it is not a serious health risk we would suggest that you choose Option 1 below and deal with the food supplier directly.

Complaint options

Option 1

For non pre-packed fresh foods return the food, container etc to the shop from which it was purchased and ask to see the person in charge. For pre-packed foods write to or telephone the manufacturer, the address should be on the package. Explain the nature of your complaint and ask them to investigate it. Ask them to write to you with their explanations of how the problem arose.

If after pursuing the matter with the relevant shop/company you are still not satisfied with their response you have the option to return to the Environmental Protection Service with details of your progress.

At this stage we may not be able to take any action other than to write to the company concerned noting their failure to satisfy you. We would hope that this would stimulate them into responding to your complaint and also enable us to record their failure and take this into account in any further dealings we might have with them.

Option 2

Ask the Environmental Health Team to investigate.

An officer will assess if the complaint is justified and if the complaint warrants further investigation because there is a risk to public health as detailed above. You will be informed if the officer intends to take no further action.

If the complaint does warrant further investigation, as a minimum, we will contact or visit the premises concerned, and where appropriate we will contact the local authority in whose area the complaint originates from.

You will be asked to sign a declaration of release form and must be willing to abide by the decision the Authority reaches at the conclusion of its investigation. You will also be asked to provide a witness statement. The Council is unable to negotiate compensation for complaints on your behalf.

Option 3

You may wish to take private legal action against the retailer/manufacturer, you should discuss this matter with a Solicitor.

If you decide you want this department to investigate, you should:

  • Keep the food, any wrappings and labels and receipt safe.
  • Keep the food in its original container where possible.
  • Avoid handling foreign objects - if they are embedded in the food do not displace them.
  • Keep perishable foods in the fridge or freezer.

How to complain about food hygiene standards

The Environmental Health Team always wants to hear about businesses that are not meeting food hygiene standards or are selling food likely to cause illness.

What sorts of things should you report?

  • Shops that are regularly selling perishable food past its 'Use By' date
  • You witness a member of staff in the food business sneezing and then not washing their hands. Please also bring it to the attention of the management of the premises.

What do you not need to report?

  • Shops that clearly label but continue to sell food beyond its 'Best Before' date
  • Staff who are not wearing gloves or headcoverings (unless you also witness poor personal hygiene)
  • Staff not using different coloured chopping boards (unless using same boards for raw and cooked foods)

What to do if you think you have food poisoning

We have an ongoing risk based programme for inspecting food businesses within the Borough to try and ensure that all food sold is safe to eat.

Despite this from time to time some people do suffer from sickness and/or diarrhoea which they believe to be food poisoning caused by a recent meal they have eaten. Sometimes they may visit or speak to their GP and he/she will suggest it is food poisoning based on the symptoms alone.

However there are other illnesses, such as viral infections, that are spread from person to person within the community and have similar symptoms to food poisoning.

The only way to confirm food poisoning is by submitting a faecal specimen to a laboratory for testing (you can request a kit from your GP). Without the food poisoning being confirmed by a laboratory there is limited action that we can take.

You can let let us know when you believe you have have eaten food that has made you unwell so that we can log your concern and investigate as necessary - depending if we receive other, similar allegations. BUT we need to have the type of food poisoning confirmed so that we know the kinds of things to look for when we visit the premises. We may contact you if more details are needed and it would be appreciated if you could include a telephone number with any email to make this contact easier.