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Consumer Complaints To FSAI Advice Line Increase In 2023.

Worms in frozen dumplings – Stone in black pudding – Dead mouse in strawberries.

A total of 7,732 complaints and queries were handled by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line in 2023.
Announcing details today of the complaints and queries last year, the FSAI stated that there were 4,395 complaints from consumers, with 31.9% of complaints relating to poor hygiene standards, 27.2% to unfit food and 26.7% to suspected food poisoning.
Overall, the 4,395 complaints in 2023 saw an 8.3% increase compared with 4,058 complaints in 2022, which continues an overall upwards trend over the past decade. All complaints received by the FSAI in 2023 were followed up and investigated by food inspectors throughout the country.

Poor hygiene standards were most frequently reported in 2023, which included complaints about: staff not having hair covered during food preparation; toilets being dirty; staff handling food and cash with the same gloves; food unprotected from contamination (e.g. flies around baked goods on the counter); bins outside overflowing and attracting animals; dirty fridges; food not being stored correctly; visibly dirty premises; and rodents spotted.

The second most frequently reported category related to unfit food, which means food that is not safe to eat. Unfit food includes contamination with a foreign object. Commonly reported foreign objects in food included: plastic; hair; insects; glass; stones and wood.
Examples include: insect found in instant noodles; snail found in coleslaw; dead mouse found in punnet of strawberries; stone found in black pudding; mould in prepacked rice bag; piece of bone found in a chocolate bar; worms in frozen dumplings; piece of plastic inside a pepper pot; part of a latex glove found in bag of spinach; a shard of glass in a loaf of bread; metal shaving in takeaway noodles; and a metal pin in a prepacked salad.
Other complaints regarding unfit food cited meats not cooked completely; food that smelled/tasted off; food sold past their use-by dates; and mould on foods.

The third most frequently reported category related to reports of suspected food poisoning, with chicken; beef; fish; and shellfish as the most common food mentioned in the complaint.

The breakdown of all complaints are as follows:

Hygiene standards: 1,404.
Unfit food: 1,196.
Suspect food poisoning: 1,175.
Labelling: 231
Allergen Information: 149.
Others: 181.
Unregistered food business: 59.

    Dr Pamela Byrne, (Chief Executive, FSAI,) stressed the importance of making complaints to the FSAI, so that any food safety issues can be addressed.

    “Our online complaint form continues to be a valuable resource enabling the public to contact us with their food safety complaints. It is crucial for food establishments to maintain high standards of food safety practices, and reports made by the public greatly assist Environmental Health Officers, veterinary and agricultural inspectors, sea-fisheries inspection officers, and laboratory staff in their work. While routine inspections are carried out regularly, reports from the public help to identify specific issues, ensuring swift identification of potential threats to public health. The increase in complaints reflects a growing awareness among the public of their right to safe food and the importance of high standards of food safety and hygiene. We encourage anyone who observes poor hygiene or food safety practices to promptly report it to FSAI for thorough investigation by the relevant authorities,” said Dr Byrne.

    The FSAI’s Advice Line also offers advice and information and during 2023, there were 3,337 queries from people working in the food industry; food safety consultants; researchers; consumers; and others. Popular topics included: how to start a food business; requests for FSAI publications; food labelling information; best practice in food businesses; food safety training; imports/exports, and several others.

    The FSAI Advice Line is contactable through our online complaint form ‘makeitbetter’ or through our online query form. The FSAI Instagram, facebook and X pages are also resources with up-to-the-minute information in relation food safety: www.facebook.com/FSAI and @FSAIinfo.

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