Public complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) advice line went up this past year with a sharp rise in food poisoning reports.
There were 4,058 complaints from consumers in 2022, with about 1,200 relating to unfit food and more than 1,100 each due to poor hygiene standards and suspected food poisoning. Food poisoning concerns almost doubled from the 622 received in 2021.
Overall, 2022 saw an 18.9 percent increase in complaints compared with 2021 figures, continuing an upward trend over the past decade.
All complaints received by FSAI were followed up and investigated by food inspectors throughout the country.
Examples of contamination
Foreign body objects in food were pieces of glass; wood; plastic; paper; metal; hair; small stones; medicine tablets; and insects.
Examples included 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 on unfit food listed meats not cooked completely; mold on food products; food on sale past the use-by date; and items served cold instead of hot.
Hygiene issues included fish deliveries left outside in the sun; excessive flies and dirty business premises; rodent droppings; bathrooms lacking soap; staff not washing hands and other poor employee hygiene habits.
Labeling was behind 150 complaints and 127 were made because of allergen information. More than 60 were because of unregistered food businesses, which is down from 162 in 2021. People starting a food company can find resources and training on the FSAI website.
In 2022, there were 3,305 queries from people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; distributors; researchers; consultants; and consumers. Popular topics involved best practices in food businesses and food safety legislation; food supplement regulation; requests for FSAI publications and import and export questions.
Importance of reporting problems
Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said the reporting of food safety issues was vital.
“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 laboratories. While they carry out routine inspections throughout the country and analyze food samples, complaints assist in targeting an issue and ensure possible threats to public health are dealt with quickly,” she said.
“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. 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.”
In 2022, FSAI ran a digital communications campaign called “See Something, Say Something” to raise awareness amongst consumers of the online complaint service.
The FSAI advice line is staffed by food scientists and trained advisors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a complaint form on the FSAI website.
It was also recently reported that Belgium’s Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain’s (FASFC) consumer contact point received 5,000 complaints and 6,600 questions in 2022.
A spike in requests for information was seen during the Salmonella contamination scare at Ferrero’s Belgian chocolate factory. More than 2,000 questions came in just before the Easter holiday, following the recall of different Kinder products.
Belgian authorities also recorded 240 complaints in 2022 about the sale of food products online.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)