Food complaints

How to make a food complaint and how we investigate complaints.

Despite the routine inspecting of food businesses and the sampling of foods, there are occasions when things go wrong and consumers need to complain about food items or premises.

Our commercial environmental health team is responsible for investigating a variety of issues relating to:

  • processing
  • handling
  • storage and/or distribution of food

Make a food complaint

To make a complaint, fill in our dedicated e-form:

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It is important you try to avoid disturbing the food as much as possible. You should also try to keep the food item in its original packaging, storing perishable foods in the freezer.

How we investigate complaints

Our policy is to investigate all food complaints for which we are the responsible authority.

We cannot get you a refund for your food.

You can decide whether to pursue the food complaint through us, or to return it to the place of purchase for the store to carry out an investigation.

There are some complaints that we will not investigate because they are either unjustified or pose no risk to public health or safety. If your complaint falls into this category, we will let you know and explain why.

Where evidence indicates malicious tampering of the food, details will be passed to the police.

What we need to progress a complaint

We are unable to carry out an investigation without the food, so you will need to bring the item of food you are complaining about into our offices.

We must have the packaging so we can check the batch codes, dates and the company who made the product.

On receipt of the food item we will obtain as much information as possible about the circumstances of purchase and discovery.

You will be requested to complete and sign a form agreeing to the voluntary surrender of the food.

Once you have handed the food item over to us, you relinquish all rights to the food. This may be returned to you after the investigation is complete.

Investigation length

Following the receipt of a complaint about a food item (or premises), you will be required to bring the food complaint to the our offices. A food safety officer will then start an investigation to identify the reasons for the complaint.

This can result in a lengthy process involving various parties which may include:

  • retailers
  • wholesalers
  • producers
  • importers
  • manufacturers
  • analysts for microbiological examination or chemical analysis

The investigation may also involve other local authorities, particularly where the food is not manufactured in Haringey.

Purpose of the investigations

We investigate complaints to:

  • safeguard public health
  • try to prevent the problem recurring
  • ensure food establishments are preparing and serving food as safely and hygienically as possible (known as 'due diligence')

Due diligence defence

This is a defence where a business must prove that all reasonable steps had been taken to prevent the complaint from happening.

The food business involved must prove that they could not have done anything more to prevent the problem from occurring despite their best efforts.

Many investigations show that a 'due diligence defence' exists, controls are very good, but the complaint happened anyway.

Common complaints

Common complaints are about foreign objects in food, and a number of the items found are either normal parts of the food or harmless contamination, most of which can be dealt with by returning the item to the retailer.

Once the investigation is complete

Depending on the evidence gathered, the investigating officer will determine whether we will deal with the complaint formally or informally.

The investigating officer will keep you updated throughout the course of the investigation.

Contact us if you still have any concerns or doubts.

Contact commercial environmental health