The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises and food labelling in 2016. The figure represents a total increase of 17% on 2015 (when 2,739 were received), with the number of complaints about food poisoning were up considerably at 45%.
Poor hygiene standards were the second highest reported, with an increase of 34%, as compared with 2015, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15%. The number of complaints about unfit food was up 7%, when compared with 2015. Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information:
1,126 complaints on unfit food
864 complaints on hygiene standards
741 complaints on suspect food poisoning
221 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
60 complaints on non-display of allergen information
Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers. In 2016, these reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects. For example, a live insect found in a packaged dessert; a long black hair in garlic sauce; a human nail in a takeaway meal; glass in a dessert; plastic rope in a takeaway meal; and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.
Other complaints regarding poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets; rats seen on the premises; dirty tables and floors: and one case of a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands. All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by enforcement officers throughout the country.
The FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information and during 2016, 10,497 queries were received from a wide range of requesters, including consumers; people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; researchers and consultants. The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements; allergens and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications.
Edel Smyth, Information Manager, FSAI states: “The statistics from our Advice Line service continue to show an upward trend with consumers expressing much more concern and being more conscious about the food they consume and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues. There is a culture developing amongst consumers, which indicates zero tolerance towards poor hygiene standards and, in particular, food that is unfit to eat.
As consumers in Ireland become more vocal about the standards they expect from food establishments, we are seeing a welcomed increase in the level of complaints we receive directly from consumers. We continue to encourage anyone who has had a bad food safety experience to report the matter to the FSAI so that the issue can be dealt with.”
Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI states: “Our Advice Line, supported by our comprehensive website and online publication ordering system are important resources for the food industry where our experts are available to assist food business owners and managers to fully understand their legal requirements. We urge food businesses to take full advantage of the information and support provided to ensure they are meeting their food safety legal requirements.”
Approximately 39% of requests to the FSAI Advice Line in 2016 were received by telephone, while 52% were received electronically (i.e. by email/website), which is proving to be an increasingly popular source of contact. The remainder of requests (9%) included attendance at events and through the FSAI’s facebook and Twitter pages.
The FSAI Advice Line, which operates from 9am to 5pm weekdays, is manned by trained advisors and food scientists and can be reached at email@example.com or through the ‘make a complaint’ section of the FSAI website. The FSAI facebook and Twitter pages are also resources with up-to-the-minute information in relation food safety: www.facebook.com/FSAI and @FSAIinfo.