A total of 11,166 queries and complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's (FSAI) advice line in 2011.
Announcing details of the information requests and complaints last year, the FSAI stated that there was an increase of over 13 percent in 2011 in calls related to consumers reporting issues concerning food and food establishments. The 2,415 (2,126 in 2010) complaints ranged from reports of unfit food, low hygiene standards, inaccurate labeling information and suspected food poisoning.
The 2,415 complaints lodged by consumers are:
• 966 complaints on unfit food
• 497 complaints on suspect food poisoning
• 446 complaints on hygiene standards
• 137 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
• 37 complaints on incorrect advertising of food products
• 332 other
The FSAI confirms that contamination with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers. In 2011, these reports included: food contaminated with live and dead insects; a tooth; a false nail; pieces of metal; plastic rubber tubing; and a plaster.
Specific incidents cited were a small dead rodent in a bag of bananas and a bolt complete with nut and washer in meatballs. Consumer concerns relating to food sold past its 'best-before' date, where no information was displayed at the point of sale were received. Food legislation does not prevent a packaged food to be offered for sale past its 'best-before' date, but it is strongly recommended to indicate to the consumer that the food is past its 'best-before' date, so that they can make an informed choice before purchasing the product.
Other complaints ranged from suspected food poisoning, to poor hygiene standards, to food workers handling money and not washing their hands before handling food. All complaints received by the FSAI were individually followed up and investigated by environmental health officers throughout the country.
"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. Last year, 2011, saw the FSAI launch our first digital communications campaign entitled See Something, Say Something!, which aimed to raise awareness amongst consumers of our advice line service," says Edel Conway, information manager, FSAI. We encourage anyone who witnesses poor hygiene or food safety standards to report the matter to the FSAI, so that it can be investigated by the environmental health officers. Every case we receive is reviewed and followed up directly with the food business involved in a timely fashion."
"Consumers are more vigilant than ever; they expect and are entitled to adequate standard of food hygiene in every food establishment and across every food product they purchase. The potential health risks posed when poor food safety and hygiene standards are not met by food businesses can be serious, but are easily avoidable. Poor standards can be the result of a shoddy approach or ignorance where a food business has not made a priority to ensure they are following best practices to safeguard their customers' health. There is no excuse for a food business to have poor standards across any area of its production processes. Our advice line is not only a service for consumer complaints, but also acts as an important resource tool for the food industry where our experts are available to assist food business owners and managers raise their standards with the best available advice," she concluded.
The remainder of the 11,166 calls made to the FSAI's advice line in 2011 related to advice on: food labeling; legal requirements for starting up a new food business; food safety training information; food legislation; and requests for FSAI publications.