Over 3,200 food safety complaints lodged

A cigarette butt found in a bag of chips, a human nail in a takeaway meal, and a live insect discovered in a packaged dessert were just some of the 3,202 complaints received by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

Its annual report revealed the “contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported by consumers”.

Further specific complaints included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, a long black hair in garlic sauce, and plastic rope in a takeaway.

The FSAI report said: “Other complaints regarding poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets, rats seen on the premises, dirty tables and floors, and one case of a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.”

Overall, the 3,202 complaints from consumers to FSAI’s Advice Line last year concerned food products and preparation, food premises and food labelling, and represented a 17% increase in the number of complaints in 2015. A breakdown of the complaints show in 2016 there were:

  • 1,126 complaints on unfit food, up 7% on 2015;
  • 864 complaints on hygiene standards, an increase of 34%;
  • 741 complaints on suspected food poisoning, a rise of 45%;
  • 221 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling, up 15%.

The FSAI received a further 250 complaints on other issues, including 60 complaints on non-display of allergen information.

Its chairman Prof Michael Gibney said the issue of allergens in food will be an “area of focus for the authority over the years to come”.

“We also noticed over the last number of years a growth in the number of food allergen alerts, whereby an undeclared allergen is identified in a product and that product needs to be withdrawn or recalled.

“Three in every 100 people in Ireland has a food allergy and the seriousness of these occurrences can result in the loss of life to an individual in its most extreme form and can also result in urgent medical treatment and severe allergic reactions.”

During 2016, food inspectors served 116 enforcement orders on food businesses, 94 of which were closure orders, three improvement orders and nine prohibition orders.

There were 54,941 food inspections by official agencies last year, 6,404 of which were unplanned inspections. The authority issued 39 food alerts throughout 2016. These warnings led to either product recalls or withdrawals from the market and are the highest number of food alerts in 10 years.

“Examples varied greatly from recalls of dietetic foods/food supplements due to the presence of amphetamine-like substance; unauthorised novel food ingredients and in one case, insufficient sterilisation of the product; confectionery items containing plastic pieces; presence of salmonella in soups, broths sauces and condiments; to the identification of Listeria monocytogenes in prepared food dishes, snacks and milk products,” the report said.

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