How often during the course of last year did the 5 million people of Ireland lodge complaints related to their food? The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is out with a report on its Advice Line for 2015 that provides some answers. The FSA of Ireland took 2,739 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises and food labelling in 2015. While the figure was largely unchanged on 2014 when 2,738 where received, the number of complaints about poor hygiene standards showed an increase of 14 percent, compared with 2014, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 10 percent. The number of complaints about unfit food was down 12 percent and complaints about food poisoning were down 4 percent. Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information:
- 1,052 complaints on unfit food;
- 643 complaints on hygiene standards;
- 510 complaints on suspect food poisoning;
- 192 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling;
- 42 complaints on non-display of allergen information; and
- 342 complaints about other issues.
Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers. In 2015 those reports included allegations of food contaminated with dead insects and metal, as well as other foreign objects. For example, an animal tooth in jam; a beetle in a burger bun; a worm in a chicken nugget; a metal screw in a cake; a snail in pick ‘n’ mix sweets; and a sharp piece of glass in frozen peas. Other complaints regarding unfit food referred to undercooked food being served in food premises; out-of-date food being sold in retail outlets; moldy bread being used to make sandwiches and strange tastes coming from food. All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by enforcement officers throughout the country. Of the 11,832 requests received by the FSAI’s Advice Line during 2015, 49 percent were from food businesses seeking advice and information across a range of food related areas. Key areas of advice sought included information about labelling requirements; allergens and additives; resources for food business start-ups; information on training, standards and legislation; as well as requests for FSAI publications. “In recent years, consumers have become much more conscious about the food they consume and are increasingly vigilant about food safety issues. There is now a low level of tolerance around poor hygiene standards and food that is unfit to eat in particular.” Edel Smyth, information manager for FSAI, reported. “This is a welcome development and is reflected 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.” Smyth said the FSAI’s Advice Line is an important resource for the food industry with experts available to assist food business owners and managers understand their legal requirements. “This is supported by our comprehensive website and online publication ordering system which allows food businesses to download publications directly from the FSAI website. We urge food businesses to take full advantage of the information and support provided to ensure they reach their food safety legal requirements.” Approximately 49 percent of requests to the FSAI Advice Line in 2015 were received by telephone, while 40 percent were received by electronic routes, such as email and website requests. The remainder of requests, 11 percent, included attendance at events and through the FSAI’s facebook and Twitter pages. The FSAI Advice Line, which operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, is manned by trained advisors and food scientists and can be reached on 1890 336677. Alternatively, anyone can email their enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the ‘make a complaint’ section of the FSAI website. The FSAI Facebook page and Twitter page, @FSAIinfo, are also resources with up-to-the-minute information in relation food safety in Ireland. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)