More than 7,000 queries and complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line in 2022. According to the FSAI, 31% of those complaints related to unfit food and 28% to poor hygiene standards.
Compared to 2021, last year saw the number of complaints rising by 18.9%, continuing the upward trend seen in the last decade.
Foreign body contamination of food was a frequent grievance, with objects including glass, wood, plastic, paper, metal, hair, stones, medicine and insects commonly reported in 2022.
The FSAI provides specific examples: a live snail in a pack of spinach; live maggots in fried chicken; part of a disposable glove in a rocky road biscuit; a dirty and possibly bloody plaster in a curry; a false nail in garlic cheese chips; a piece of glass in coffee beans; and metal shavings in chicken wings.
With regards to the complaints made around unfit food, reports included meat not cooked properly, mould in food, food on sale past its use-by and food served cold instead of hot.
Low hygiene standards was the second most reported incident, with cases of fish deliveries left outside in the sun, excessive flies and dirty premises, rodent droppings, and poor sanitation practice witnessed.
Other consumer complaints ranged from reports of suspected food poisoning to a failure to display allergen information, to unregistered food businesses.
The FSAI says that all complaints made in 2022 were followed up and investigated.
“We commend members of the public, as well as the food industry for reporting food safety issues,” said Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI. “Food businesses have a legal obligation to provide safe food and people noticing and contacting us is of great benefit to the Environmental Health Officers, veterinary and agricultural inspectors, sea-fisheries inspection officers and the laboratories.
“While they carry out routine inspections throughout the country and analyse food samples, complaints assist in targeting an issue and ensure possible threats to public health are dealt with quickly.
“The increase in complaints is a positive indication of people’s heightened awareness of their right to expect high standards of hygiene and food safety in relation to food. In 2022, the FSAI ran a digital communications campaign entitled See Something, Say Something which aimed to raise awareness amongst consumers of our online complaint service. We encourage anyone who encounters poor hygiene or food safety standards in a food business to report the matter to the FSAI, so that it can be investigated by the relevant food safety inspectorate.”