Food complaints and food poisoning | South Norfolk Council
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Food complaints and food poisoning

We rely on the vigilance of the public to bring serious matters about food premises to our attention. If you have concerns about the cleanliness or the practice of a food business, please contact us. A full investigation will be carried out and appropriate action will be taken.

Food hazard and allergy alerts

The Food Standards Agency sends alerts to all local authorities about substances that may cause serious harm to health, if consumed. We then contact businesses in the area which are likely to stock the substance, and give advice on what action needs to be taken. View the food alerts and allergy alerts.

Food poisoning

We investigate all food poisoning incidents that we are aware of in South Norfolk. If you think that you have food poisoning, it is important that you contact your doctor for medical advice. Food poisoning can only be confirmed by providing a stool sample to your GP for analysis. 

If you know a number of people that became ill after they ate the same food, please contact us as soon as possible with details of where the food, that you believe caused the illness, was purchased from.

Allergens and food intolerance

According to the Food Standards Agency, it is estimated that in the UK, around 2 million people (5% of children and 2% of adults) have a food allergy. 

There is no cure for food allergy. The only way people with allergies can stay safe is by avoiding the foods they are allergic to. Eating these foods can make them ill and could lead to death. 

Food businesses have a legal responsibility to serve safe food. To help businesses comply with their legal responsibilities, the Food Standards Agency have produced a number of useful resources such as free online training, allergy posters and allergy content cards which can be found here.

The Food Standards Agency have also produced material to show why good allergen information is good for business, which can be found here.

Food complaints

If you have a problem with an item of food you have purchased in the South Norfolk area, this can be investigated by us or Norfolk Trading Standards depending on the nature of the complaint. We cannot get you a refund for your purchase or arrange compensation.

Complaints dealt with by our Food and Safety Team include:

  • Foreign objects in food
  • Food that is a health risk - undercooked, unfit or mouldy
  • Items that have been sold after their use-by date (not best before or sell-by date).

If you would like us to investigate your complaint, please contact us and provide as much detail as possible. If you have ownership of the food, you will need to put the food in an unused polythene bag in the freezer and keep the packaging and receipt. Please do not send food samples in the post.

Some types of food contamination do not present a health risk. If your complaint falls in this category, we would recommend that you speak directly to the retailer.

Complaints dealt with by Norfolk Trading Standards

Norfolk Trading Standards deal with complaints about:

  • Mislabelled food
  • Quality of food
  • Allergens.

If you have a problem with a trader or a product report this to Norfolk Trading Standards

Examples of common food complaints

Chocolate bloom is a whitish coating that can appear on the surface of chocolate if stored at too high a temperature. It is not mould but is due to fat separation. It is not harmful.

No public health risk – return to retailer.

Bread and cakes may contain bits of overcooked dough that have flaked off the bakery tins. This is not necessarily an indication of poor hygiene, although they are often mistaken for rodent droppings. Rodent droppings are black and a regular torpedo shape, while bakery char is blackish and comes in uneven shapes.  

No public health risk – return to retailer.

The machinery used to produce bread and cakes is lubricated with a non-toxic vegetable oil. Occasionally some oil may become incorporated into the dough, giving areas of the product a grey, greasy appearance.

No public health risk – return to retailer.

Certain naturally occurring elements in fish may develop into hard crystals during the canning process called struvite. These crystals may be mistaken for glass fragments. They are not harmful and will be broken down by stomach acids if swallowed. It is especially common in tinned salmon. Struvite crystals will dissolve if placed in vinegar and gently heated.

No public health risk – contact the manufacturer if struvite. If it is glass contact out Food Safety Team.

Salad vegetables may have greenfly attached, especially lettuce. This is becoming increasingly common as the use of pesticides decreases. Greenfly are difficult to wash off, but they are not harmful. In fact they demonstrate that the salad is fresh.

No public health risk – wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly.

Dried products such as flour, sugar and pulses may contain small insects such as psocids (book lice) or weevils. These do not carry disease, but like warm, dark, humid conditions and can spread easily to food.

No public health risk – throw out all affected food, clean cupboards with a weak bleach solution and dry thoroughly. Store new dried goods in airtight containers.

Occasionally small grubs may be discovered in canned vegetables. These are commonly found in sweetcorn and tomatoes. The grubs are in fact caterpillars. They live inside the kernel/tomato so are impossible to see before processing. They are killed and sterilised by the canning process. As the use of pesticides decreases, the incidence of these pests will increase. Wasps and fruit flies are common in tins of fruit. They are naturally associated with ripe fruit and do not carry disease.  

No public health risk – return to retailer.

Mould will naturally occur when fruit and vegetables become damaged and bruised. Check the produce before purchasing.

No public health risk – dispose of damaged items.

Products made from meat and/or poultry may contain small bones, skin or parts of blood vessels. These are unsightly but not a health risk.

No public health risk – return to retailer.

White fish such as cod or haddock may be infested with a small, round brownish yellow cod worm. These are found in the flesh. They are killed by cooking and are harmless to humans. The affected parts of the fish are usually cut away, but occasionally some may be overlooked.

No public health risk – return to retailer.