Drop in complaints reflects impact of lockdown

OVER 2,700 consumer complaints were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) in 2020, with 34 per cent of complaints relating to unfit food and 30 per cent to poor hygiene standards.

Overall, the 2020 complaints saw a decrease on the 3,460 reported in 2019 but the reduction in numbers largely reflects the impact of Covid-19, with many food businesses temporarily closed for long periods.

The FSAI pointed out that contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported in 2020 with allegations of food containing insects, plastics and other foreign objects.

Examples of complaints received included hair in a number of foods, sharp glass in soup and fried noodles, live insects crawling through rice and snails in a packet of spinach and a bag of frozen mixed fruits. Small pieces of stone, moths and rodent droppings in food were also reported.

Complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises cited live mice and evidence of rodent activity in a café, staff’s lack of personal hygiene, staff handling cash and then food without washing their hands, the smell of sewage in food premises and no hot water for hand washing.

Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information and they included:

* 937 complaints on unfit food
* 823 complaints on hygiene standards
* 429 complaints on suspect food poisoning
* 100 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
* 78 complaints on non-display of allergen information
* 34 complaints on advertising
* 371 others such as unregistered food businesses and not adhering to Covid-19 restrictions

FSAI Chief Executive, Dr Pamela Byrne

FSAI Chief Executive, Dr Pamela Byrne, said even during the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers continued to issue complaints about food safety and hygiene in food businesses even with the Level 5 restrictions which resulted in the temporary closures of many food businesses.

“The consistently high number of complaints shows us that consumers are continuing to grow increasingly aware of their right to safe food and also the food safety and hygiene standards which should be in place across all food businesses,” she said.

“We are urging food businesses to take advantage of the resources available on our website to ensure they are meeting their legal requirements,” Dr Byrne stated.