12.5% Increase in Food Complaints to FSAI Advice Line in 2013

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The number of queries and food-related complaints handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s Advice Line increased significantly in 2013 compared with the previous year.  Of the 13,269 queries and complaints, 2,846 related specifically to complaints by consumers about food and food premises (up 12.5% on 2012), while 10,429 involved requests for advice across a range of food-related areas (up 9% on 2012). The FSAI states that the increased activity reflects a growing awareness among consumers of the need to report poor hygiene practice and an increase in demand among food businesses for information about labelling requirements and resources for food business start-ups.

Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to inaccurate labelling:

  • 1,190 complaints on unfit food
  • 566 complaints on suspect food poisoning
  • 587 complaints on hygiene standards
  • 192 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
  • 311 other

Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers.  In 2013, these reports included food contaminated with plastic, metal and glass fragments, as well as other foreign objects.  For example, consumers reported the presence of meat inside chocolate yoghurt; a dirty finger nail in baby food; a chicken’s head in frozen chicken wings; a screw in a pasta dish; glass in a ready meal; live insects in a packet of dates; and a human tooth in a Chinese takeaway.  All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by environmental health officers throughout the country.

Calls to the FSAI’s Advice Line seeking advice (10,429) included information requests on food labelling (up 20% on 2012); food legislation; legal requirements for starting up a new food business (up 5% on 2012); training information and requests for FSAI publications.  Of note, only 33 calls to the Advice Line in 2013 related to the horsemeat incident, while some 267 queries were received in relation to the Hepatitis A outbreak associated with imported frozen berries, which was an issue last year.

Commenting on the statistics, Edel Smyth, Information Manager, FSAI stated that the increase in contact made to the FSAI is a positive development. 

    “On one hand, more food businesses are contacting us seeking to raise their food safety standards while, on the other, consumers are increasingly vigilant and aware of the need to report bad practice or experiences they’ve had where food safety has been compromised,” says Ms Smyth.  “We continue to encourage anyone who has had a bad experience in relation to poor hygiene or food safety standards to report the matter to us so that the issue can be investigated directly.  Consumers are entitled to the highest standard of food safety and hygiene in every food establishment and across every food product they purchase.  It is the responsibility of food businesses across the country to ensure that they provide food which does not compromise the health of anyone who eats it.” 

    “Our Advice Line acts as an important resource tool for the food industry where our experts are available to assist food business owners and managers reach their food safety legal requirements,” she concluded.

Similar to the last few years, of the 13,269 requests to the FSAI Advice Line in 2013, approximately 60% were received by telephone and the 30% were received by email.  The remainder resulted from walk-ins, attendance at exhibitions, staff requests 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 on lo-call 1890 336677.  Alternatively, anyone can email their enquiry to info@fsai.ie 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.