A live insect in a dessert, a human nail in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips were among thousands of complaints made by the public to the Food Safety Authority.
New figures from the FSAI show its advice phoneline received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises, and food labelling last year. That was an increase of 17% on the 2015 figure of 2,739.
Meanwhile, the number of complaints about food poisoning jumped by 45% last year compared to 2015.
A total of 1,126 complaints were made relating to unfit food, 864 to hygiene standards, 741 to suspect food poisoning, 221 to incorrect information on food labelling, and 60 related to non-display of allergen information.
Grievances about poor hygiene standards were up 34% on the previous year, while complaints about incorrect information on food labelling were up 15% and those on unfit food was up 7%.
Edel Smyth, FSAI’s information manager, said Irish people are far more likely to complain about hygiene standards than they may have been in the past.
“The statistics from our advice line service continue to show an upward trend, with consumers expressing much more concern and being more conscious about the food they consume, and are being increasingly vigilant about food safety issues,” she said.
“There is a culture developing among consumers, which indicates zero tolerance towards poor hygiene standards and, in particular, food that is unfit to eat.”
The FSAI report says contamination of food with foreign objects was also frequently reported by consumers.
In 2016, reports included allegations of food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.
Examples included a live insect found in a packaged dessert, a long black hair in garlic sauce, a human nail in a takeaway meal, glass in a dessert, plastic rope in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.
Other complaints in relation to poor hygiene standards referred to dirty customer toilets, rats observed on the premises, and dirty tables and floors.
In one case, a consumer complained about a staff member at a deli sneezing into their hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing their hands.
All complaints received by the FSAI were followed up and investigated by its enforcement officers throughout the country.
Its advice line received a total of 10,497 queries in 2016 from not only consumers but people working in the food service sector, such as manufacturers, retailers, researchers, and consultants.
The most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements, allergens, and additives, as well as requests for FSAI publications.
FSAI chief executive Pamela Byrne said the advice line, as well as the agency’s website are important resources for the food industry where its experts are available to assist food business owners and managers to fully understand their legal requirements.
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