Live insects and hair found in food were among the consumer complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in 2016.

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

In 2016, these reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.

Examples of food contamination complaints include:

  • 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.
  • 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 or floors and one case of a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.

Food complaints

The FSAI revealed a total of 3,202 food complaints were made in 2016, an increase of 17% on 2015 when 2,739 were received.

These complaints, which were received through the FSAI’s Advice Line, related to food, food premises and food labelling.

Food poisoning complaints reported the highest increase, up 45%, while poor hygiene standards were the second highest reported, with an increase of 34%.

Complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15%, while the number of complaints about unfit food was up 7% in 2016, when compared with the previous year.

Range of consumer complaints:
  • 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.
  • 190 other.

All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by enforcement officers throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information service.

During 2016 a total of 10,497 queries were received from consumers, people working in the food service sector, manufacturers, retailers, researchers and consultants.

Legislation on food labelling requirements, allergens and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications, were among the most popular queries.

Consumers becoming increasingly vigilant

Statistics from the FSAI show that consumers are being more conscious about the food they consume and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues, Information Manager at FSAI, Edel Smyth, said.

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,” she said.

Approximately 39% of requests to the FSAI Advice Line in 2016 were received by telephone, while 52% were received through email or via the website.

The remainder of requests (9%) included attendance at events and through the FSAI’s social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.