Rodent droppings in a bag of crisps, maggots in mashed potato and a tooth in a takeaway dish are just some of the foreign objects found in food products and reported to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last year.
The authority has just published details of the consumer complaints its advice line dealt with in 2017. Over 3,400 complaints were handled by the advice line, 1,233 of which related to unfit food. A further 896 related to hygiene standards, while 808 were complaints about suspected food poisoning.
The FSAI said that contamination of food with foreign objects was ‘frequently reported by consumers', including a wasp in a packet of rashers, a piece of glass in a smoothie and larvae in a jar of beetroot.
When it came to complaints about poor hygiene standards in various premises, the presence of mice, rats and flies were cited. Other complaints included poor personal hygiene habits among staff, such as wiping noses when preparing sandwiches, and picking up and using food dropped on the floor.
All complaints received by the FSAI last year were followed up and investigated by food inspectors nationwide.
The advice line also offers advice and during 2017, there were over 9,500 queries from people working in the food services sector, manufacturers, retailers, researchers and consultants. Common queries included questions about food labelling legislation and information for new businesses starting up.
"We welcome consumers and food businesses contacting us via our advice line. Having people spotting and reporting inappropriate and unsafe food and practices greatly aids our work and provides us with information that we can act upon.
"The year on year increase in our advice line statistics reflects a continued trend where consumers are showing they have zero tolerance when it comes to poor food safety and hygiene standards in food products and in food premises," commented FSAI chief executive, Dr Pamela Byrne.
She noted that in 2017, the FSAI undertook a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the importance and legal requirement for allergen information to be displayed and communicated accurately to consumers in food service establishments. The number of complaints relating to the non-display of allergen information jumped by 42% last year when compared to 2016.
"We are seeing consumers becoming more aware and having a greater understanding of what they should expect from food establishments in Ireland," Dr Byrne said.
The FSAI advice line operates Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. Calls are answered by trainer advisers and food scientists. Call 1890 33 66 77 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also access the ‘make a food complaint' section on the FSAI website here