Environmental Health Officers deal with complaints about food quality, hygiene and safety issues, for example mouldy foods, foods containing foreign objects such as metal, glass or even insects, or perhaps concerns you may have about hygiene standards at a particular premises.
You can contact the Department if you have any complaints or concerns so that they can be investigated. Alternatively, you can return the item of food to the premises where it was purchased so that an investigation can be carried out “in-house”.
If you have purchased food within the borough which you suspect may be unsafe, or you have discovered a foreign object within the food and you wish to make a complaint, then take note of the following handy hints to help you make sure your concerns can be fully investigated:
- An officer may wish to take the food or foreign object away and submit it to a laboratory for analysis, so any suspect food which is not consumed or the foreign object itself should be retained and kept in a covered container, and placed in the refrigerator or freezer until collected. This will help delay any further deterioration of the food.
- Retain any receipts and packaging you may have as this will provide important information such as use-by dates, batch codes, etc., which will be needed for the investigation.
- Retain any foreign objects – they will be needed as evidence.
REMEMBER! Always store any suspect foods in such a way so as not to contaminate other foods and never remove / separate the foreign object. Handle the food as little as possible and always wash your hands afterwards. Where possible, retain any receipts of purchase.
Once the investigation has commenced, the officer dealing with your complaint will need to contact the premises where you bought your food (or their head office), or the manufacturer or importer of the food, and the local authority in which that manufacturer or importer is based.
At the end of the investigation, the enforcement action taken by the officer will be determined by the nature of the complaint, any receipt of similar complaints and how many, and the measures put in place to prevent the complaint from occurring.
In many cases the action that is taken is informal, however should formal action be taken you will be required to provide a written statement. The investigation itself can take a long time due to the delays caused by collating reports from companies, local authorities and laboratories, however you will be kept informed of progress during the course of the investigation.
The primary purpose of investigating food complaints is to safeguard public health. The Council does not get involved in seeking refunds or compensation for you as a result of you making a food complaint.