Food complaints

No matter how good a manufacturer or supplier of food is, there will be occasions when something goes wrong and the food sold is not acceptable to the customer. These will often be picked up by the manufacturer or supplier and an Allergy Alert or Food Hazard Warning will be made.

If you have purchased something which you are unsatisfied with or wish to make a complaint about then please follow the advice below.

Firstly you should call the manufacturer, supplier or shop where you bought the goods. A prompt complaint to the retailer or manufacturer will ensure that the manufacturer can recall (if necessary) any product and that your complaint can be dealt with as quickly as possible. Instances where it is appropriate to contact the manufacturer are as follows:

  • although you are not satisfied with the product, you are not unduly concerned about it and merely want your money back
  • the complaint is not of a serious nature, eg a part of a pea pod in a can of peas, or a 'flat' carbonated drink
  • you are not sure when and where you purchased the product, or you are not sure where and how you stored it

The Environmental Health Service will only deal with food complaints that pose a public health threat. The Environmental Health Service does not get involved in any compensation claims. Compensation claims are a civil matter that you must take up with the manufacturer and courts if necessary. Environmental Health will deal with:

  • unfit food eg. decomposing meat, food poisoning.
  • food that is so contaminated that it could not reasonably be eaten, eg. heavy mould growth on cheese.
  • food which contains something which is not of 'substance' demanded, eg a bolt in a loaf of bread.

For further information on some of the common food complaints please see our Food Complaints - Contamination and Food Complaints - Food poisoning pages as these may offer further advice for certain cases.

The do's and don't's when making a complaint


  • keep receipts (not essential but helpful)               
  • keep the food in the wrapper and container   
  • take digital images with a camera phone or digital camera and email them to            
  • keep perishable food under temperature control (especially if your complaint involves decomposition or off smells and tastes)               
  • read the label for best before and use by dates, and instructions for use. If you use food that is out of date, or in a different manner than required by the instructions you can expect problems        
  • if you are unhappy with the response from the manufacturer and you believe your complaint posed a public health risk then contact the Environmental Health Service


  • be tempted to handle or pull out any 'foreign' object found in the food - leave it in place    
  • put the food in a place where further deterioration could take place (instead put it in the fridge but separate from other foods)
  • throw away any of the food

Environmental Health action

The time taken to investigate a food complaints can vary because manufacturers often have to be contacted and be given the opportunity to provide an explanation as to how the problem occurred.

We often contact the Local Authority in whose area the manufacturer is situated and ask the local Environmental Health Officer to provide us with information about the manufacturer.

Sometimes we ask a representative of the manufacturer to visit this office but if the problem has arisen because of poor temperature control, storage or handling in a premises in Brighton or Hove, a visit to that premises will be made as part of the investigation.

Although these consultations can be lengthy the investigation of your complaint will commence within 24 hours of receipt of the article.

You will be kept informed of progress at least once during every 28 day period.

When the investigation is completed you will be informed of the outcome in writing. However, should you require any information about your complaint at any time please do not hesitate to contact this department.

The Environmental Health Service will take formal action when:

  • there is a public health risk  
  • there is a good chain of evidence             
  • the company concerned does not have a reasonable defence as to why the incident happened         
  • the action complies with the council's Enforcement policy

If formal action is pursued you will be asked to make a statement and to give evidence in court.

If the council does not take formal action, we will write to you explaining this and you will be asked if you wish your details to be released to the company concerned so that they can contact you directly.

Please contact the Food Safety Team on (01273) 294416 or (01273) 294491

Trading standards

Trading Standards also deal with food complaints. The type of complaints they deal with are as follows:

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

For more information please look at the Trading Standards web pages