Wednesday, 02 March 2022
Over 3,414 consumer complaints were received by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line in 2021, with 36% of complaints relating to unfit food and 24% to poor hygiene standards. Overall, the 2021 complaints saw a 23% increase compared with 2020. That year saw a considerable decrease on the previous year due to COVID-19, and the 2021 numbers are more in line with the pre-COVID-19 figures of 3,460 in 2019.
The FSAI noted that foreign body contamination of food was frequently reported in 2021. Commonly reported objects in food included: strands of hair; insects; stones; pieces of plastic; metal; and glass. Examples include glass found in porridge and sweet potato fries; hair found in numerous takeaway foods; metal found in baked beans; a maggot found in soup; and a metal screw in spareribs.
Complaints regarding unfit food cited a can of orange juice filled with beans; a piece of wood found in a container of soup; an exploding bottle of fruit juice; a spider in a takeaway cocktail; and a disposable glove in a pie.
Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information
- 1,235 complaints on unfit food
- 815 complaints on hygiene standards
- 622 complaints on suspect food poisoning
- 162 complaints on unregistered food businesses
- 139 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
- 97 complaints on non-display of allergen information
- 344 ‘other’ (i.e., unregistered food businesses, COVID-19 restrictions, advertising complaints)
All complaints received by the FSAI in 2021 were followed up and investigated by food inspectors throughout the country, and the FSAI continues to develop new information on a range of food safety concerns. Food businesses should refer to the FSAI website for the most up-to-date advice on issues such as how to develop a food safety management system; how to maintain the highest hygiene standards and how to declare the presence of food allergens.
The FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information and during 2021, there were 4,718 queries from people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; researchers; distributors; consultants; and consumers. Queries about how to start up a new food business remained one of the most popular again in 2021 and other popular topics included food labelling legislation; food safety training; food supplements legislation; and requests for FSAI publications.
Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI commented: “We welcome consumers and food businesses contacting us via our Advice Line. Consumers have a right to safe food. Having people spotting and reporting inappropriate and unsafe food and practices greatly aids our work with the food inspectors and provides us with information that we can act upon. Consumers are becoming more aware and having a greater understanding of what they should expect from food businesses in Ireland. There has been a considerable increase in complaints regarding unfit food and poor hygiene standards and we thank the public for their increased vigilance. While the figures may be higher in 2021 than 2020, this can partly be contributed to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.”
“With the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, food businesses have reopened their doors and welcomed back customers and staff. Food business owners and managers should continue to use our website and Advice Line for the most recent updates regarding food safety best practices. The FSAI’s Advice Line, supported by a comprehensive website and online publication ordering system, are important resources for the food industry to visit and engage with experts for free advice. We urge food businesses to ensure they are meeting their food safety legal requirements and they should also take full advantage of the information and support provided,” said Dr Byrne.
The FSAI Advice Line is open during usual working hours from 10am to 4pm weekdays, manned by food scientists and trained advisors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the online complaint form ‘make it better’ on the FSAI website. The FSAI Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages are also resources with up-to-the-minute information in relation food safety.