Over 3,400 consumer complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line in 2017, with over a third of those relating to complaints of unfit food, according to newly released statistics.
Overall, last year saw an increase of 6% on the 3,200 reported in 2016, with the number of complaints relating to non-display of allergen information up significantly at 42%. A considerable increase was also noted among complaints relating to incorrect information on food labels at 17%.
The FSAI outlines that the majority of consumer concerns relating to allergen information included a variety of non-compliance issues such as a lack of allergen information available in restaurants, confused messages regarding the presence of particular allergens in food, lack of awareness by food businesses of the legal requirement to display allergen information, allergens not highlighted on a food label, and allergens present in a food, but not indicated or displayed.
The FSAI states that the categories of complaints were as follows:
- 1,233 complaints on unfit food
- 896 complaints on hygiene standards
- 808 complaints on suspect food poisoning
- 183 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
- 103 complaints on non-display of allergen information
- 102 other
Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers, which included reports of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects. Examples of complaints received included chewing gum reported several times as being present in a number foods including sandwich wraps, scrambled egg from a breakfast buffet, and in takeaway rice.
Other foreign objects found in foods were a long black hair in a sandwich, rodent droppings in a bag of crisps, a tooth in a takeaway dish, larvae in jar of beetroot, a piece of glass in a smoothie, maggots in mashed potato, and a wasp in a packet of rashers.
Of those complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises - rats, mice and flies being present in premises were cited. Others included poor personal hygiene habits of staff working in the food sector.
The FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information and during 2017, there were 9,576 queries from people working in the foodservice sector. The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, requests for FSAI publications, as well as information for new food businesses setting up operations.