Make a complaint about food

Find out who to contact when you want to make a complaint about food and when something may pose a public health threat.

Make a complaint

No matter how good a food manufacturer or supplier is, sometimes things go wrong and the customer is not happy with the food. 

The manufacturer or supplier will often acknowledge it and issue an allergy alert or food hazard warning.

If you want to make a complaint about food you should phone the manufacturer, supplier or shop. 

A prompt complaint to the retailer or manufacturer means they can recall the product and deal with your complaint quickly. 

Contact the manufacturer if:

  • you’re not satisfied with the product but you’re not extremely worried about it and only want your money back
  • the complaint is not serious, for example finding part of a pea pod in a can of peas, or a 'flat' carbonated drink
  • you’re not sure when and where you purchased the product, or you’re not sure where and how you stored it

Advice for making a complaint

Make sure you:

  • keep receipts
  • keep the food in the wrapper and container
  • take digital images and email them to
  • keep perishable food in a fridge, especially if your complaint involves rotten food or food that smells or tastes off
  • follow the guidelines for best before dates, use by dates and instructions for use
  • contact the Environmental Health Service if you’re unhappy with the response from the manufacturer and you believe your complaint poses a public health risk 

Do not:

  • handle or pull out any 'foreign' object found in the food
  • put the food where further deterioration could take place, put it in the fridge away from other foods
  • throw away any of the food

When Environmental Health will get involved

The Environmental Health Service deals with food complaints that pose a public health threat. It does not get involved in compensation claims. 

Compensation claims are a civil matter that you must take up with the manufacturer and courts.

Environmental Health will deal with:

  • unfit food, like decomposing meat
  • food poisoning
  • food that’s so contaminated you could not expect someone to eat it, like heavy mould growth on cheese
  • food which contains something that should not be there, like a piece of metal in a loaf of bread

What Environmental Health will do

The time it takes to investigate food complaints varies. We often have to contact the manufacturer to give them an opportunity to tell us what happened.

We often ask the manufacturer’s local Environmental Health Officer to give us information about them.

We may ask a representative from the manufacturer to visit our offices. If the problem was because of poor temperature control, storage or handling in a Brighton & Hove premises, we’ll visit them.

This can take a while but as soon as we receive the article we will start the investigation within 24 hours.

We’ll update you on the progress at least once every 28 days. At the end of the investigation we’ll tell you the outcome in writing.

If you need any information about your complaint, please send an email to or phone 01273 294 266.

Formal action

The Environmental Health service will take formal action when:

  • there is a public health risk
  • there is a good chain of evidence
  • the company does not have a good reason for the complaint
  • the action complies with our enforcement policy

Find out more about our Environmental Health Enforcement Policy.

If we take formal action we’ll ask you to make a statement and to give evidence in court.

If we do not take formal action, we’ll write to you to explain this. We’ll ask if you want the company to have your details so they can contact you directly.

You can phone the Food Safety team on 01273 294 416 or 01273 294 491.

Read our food safety complaint or query privacy notice for information on how we collect, store and process your data.

Trading standards

Trading Standards also deals with food complaints.

The type of complaints they deal with are:

  • chemical contamination of food and improper use of additives
  • composition of food, like sausages must contain a certain percentage of meat
  • adulteration of foods
  • labelling offences and misleading claims
  • quality and nature of food, like Cod sold as Haddock

Find out more about Trading Standards.

Report a business

If a business is trading when it should be closed under the current restrictions, you can send an email to to report it to Trading Standards.