FSAI Advice Line complaints increased by near 20% in 2022

Last year, the FSAI stated that there were 4,058 complaints from consumers

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive of the FSAI

A total of 7,363 queries and complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line in 2022.

Announcing details of the complaints and queries last year, the FSAI stated that there were 4,058 complaints from consumers, with 31% of complaints relating to unfit food and 28% to poor hygiene standards. Overall, the 2022 complaints saw a 18.9% increase compared with 2021 figures, continuing an overall upwards trend over the past decade.

Foreign body contamination of food was frequently reported in 2022. Commonly reported objects in food included: pieces of glass; wood; plastic; paper; metal; hairs; small stones; medicine tablets; and insects. Examples include: 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. Complaints regarding unfit food cited meats not cooked completely; mould found on food products; food on sale past their use-by date; and food served cold instead of hot.

The second most frequently reported topic related to poor hygiene standards. Hygiene issues reported included: fish deliveries left outside in the sun; excessive flies and overall dirty food business premises; rodent droppings spotted; bathrooms lacking soap; and staff not washing hands and other poor staff hygiene habits.

Aside from unfit food and poor hygiene standards, other consumer complaints ranged from reports of suspected food poisoning to a failure to display allergen information. The breakdown of complaints are as follows:

  • Unfit food: 1,258
  • Hygiene standards: 1,124
  • Suspect food poisoning: 1,122
  • Labelling: 150
  • Allergen information: 127
  • Unregistered food business: 63
  • Others: 214

All complaints received by the FSAI in 2022 were followed up and investigated by food inspectors throughout the country. Food businesses should refer to the FSAI website for the most up-to-date advice on issues such as how to determine product shelf-life and how to declare it on a label; how to develop and implement a food safety management system; and how to comply with microbiological criteria to ensure that food is of acceptable quality. Those thinking of starting a food business can also find resources and training on the FSAI website.

The FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information and during 2022, there were 3,305 food safety queries from people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; distributors; researchers; consultants; and consumers. Popular topics included: best practice in food businesses and food safety legislation; food supplement legislation; requests for FSAI publications; imports/exports and several others.

Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive, FSAI said the reporting of food safety issues plays a vital role in complementing the work of the food safety inspectorate.

“We commend members of the public, as well as the food industry for reporting food safety issues. 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,” said Dr Byrne.

“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.”

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 info@fsai.ie or through the online complaint form ‘make it better’ on the FSAI website.

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