FSAI: Moth in cream and snail in chicken among 3,460 food complaints in 2019

Over 3,460 consumer complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI’s) Advice Line in 2019, with over half of those relating to complaints of unfit food and poor hygiene standards.

Among the more unusual complaints, a moth or butterfly was found in fresh cream, a snail was reported as being found in a whole chicken and a caterpillar was found in pork chops, the FSAI says.

Overall, the 2019 complaints saw a marginal increase on the 3,424 complaints reported in 2018, with the number of reports relating to non-display of allergen information up significantly at 25%, the authority noted.

Spike in poor hygiene and food poisoning

A considerable increase was also noted among issues relating to poor hygiene standards at 19% and suspected food poisoning incidents were up 8%.

The FSAI noted an increase in the number of complaints from consumers in relation to inadequate pest control in food premises and this has also been reflected in Enforcement Orders.

Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information:
  • 1,134 complaints on hygiene standards;
  • 1,082 complaints on unfit food;
  • 792 complaints on suspect food poisoning;
  • 149 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling;
  • 135 complaints on non-display of allergen information; and
  • 113 other.

Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers, the FSAI noted.

In 2019, these reports included allegations of food containing insects, plastics and other foreign objects.

For example, hair was reported several times as being present in a number of foods, as well as false nails, small pieces of stone, metal and plastic.

Other reports to the FSAI included a snail in a whole chicken; a caterpillar in pork chops; and a butterfly/moth in fresh cream.

Complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises cited live mice and evidence of rodent activity throughout food handling and storage areas; staff failing to wash their hands when cooking and serving food; pigeons in the deli area; and flies noted throughout a premises.

FSAI Advice Line

During 2019, the FSAI Advice Line received 8,964 queries from: people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; researchers; and consultants.

Some of the most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements; requests for FSAI publications, as well as information for new food businesses setting up operations.

Dr. Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, commented, saying:

Our advice line continues to be a valuable resource enabling consumers and food businesses to contact us with their complaints or queries around food safety.

“The figures from last year show that consumers too are becoming increasingly attentive as to how food establishments are expected to operate in terms of food safety in Ireland.”