There was a rise in the number of consumer complaints to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) advice line in 2021.
A total of 3,414 complaints were made, with 36 percent relating to unfit food and 24 percent to poor hygiene standards. All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by food inspectors.
While the overall total is a 23 percent increase on 2020, it is in line with the pre-COVID-19 figures of 3,460 in 2019.
Foreign body contamination was frequently recorded in 2021. Reported objects in food included strands of hair; insects; stones; pieces of plastic; metal; and glass. Examples were glass in porridge and sweet potato fries; hair in takeaway foods; metal in baked beans; a maggot in soup; and a metal screw in spareribs.
Other issues were a can of orange juice filled with beans; a piece of wood in a container of soup; an exploding bottle of fruit juice; a spider in a takeaway cocktail; and a disposable glove in a pie.
Food poisoning and other issues
While most complaints related to unfit food and hygiene standards, there were 622 on suspected food poisoning, 162 about unregistered food businesses and 97 due to non-display of allergen information.
In terms of advice and information, there were 4,718 queries from people working in the food service sector; manufacturers; retailers; researchers; distributors; consultants; and consumers.
Questions about how to start up a food business remained one of the most popular in 2021 and other topics included food labelling laws; food safety training and food supplements legislation.
Dr. Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said consumer awareness and understanding of what they should expect from food businesses in Ireland is growing.
“Having people spotting and reporting inappropriate and unsafe food and practices greatly aids our work with the food inspectors and provides us with information that we can act upon. There has been a considerable increase in complaints regarding unfit food and poor hygiene standards and we thank the public for their increased vigilance.”
Byrne said that while 2021 figures are higher than 2020, this was at least partly due to the impact of Coronavirus restrictions.
“With the removal of COVID-19 restrictions, food businesses have reopened their doors and welcomed back customers and staff. Food business owners and managers should continue to use our website and advice line for the most recent updates regarding food safety best practices. We urge food businesses to ensure they are meeting their food safety legal requirements and they should also take full advantage of the information and support provided,” she said.
The advice line is open from 10am to 4pm weekdays, is manned by food scientists and trained advisors and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a complaint form on the FSAI website.
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