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Food Complaints and Complaints about Food Businesses

What to do if you buy food and find a problem with it

Food businesses have a legal duty to only sell food that is fit to eat, and is of a satisfactory standard of quality. If it is not, then you can contact us, and we will investigate it. If the law has been broken, we will take action. If the problem relates to the product's labelling, Trading Standards may be able to look into it.

To provide us with the information we need please complete a request form although we suggest you read the rest of the information on this page first.


Do we investigate all food complaints?

No. There are some complaints that we will not investigate because there is no risk to public health or safety, where there is no evidence, or where the manufacturer is likely to be able to show that they had done all that was reasonable to prevent the occurrence (this is known as a due diligence defence). Examples of when we won't investigate include:

  • A food complaint where the customer no longer has the food in their possession;

  • A food poisoning allegation where there is no laboratory confirmation and where the affected person is not in a risk group (i.e. under five year olds, the elderly, or sick or immuno-compromised);

  • Where the complaint relates to food sold by responsible traders, such as most major supermarkets, catering chains and national manufacturers, unless it is a foreign body complaint that has caused or could cause actual physical injury (see below). For other low risk cases you are recommended to return the goods to the retailer. This permits our resources to be focused where greatest local improvement can be made;

  • Complaints that food past the 'best before' date has been sold or is on display for sale;

  • Where the complaint is to do with the quality of the product, description or issues of that nature. In such cases please direct your complaint to Hampshire Trading Standards.

If you are unsure, please contact us, and we will let you know if we can investigate your complaint.


Complaints we will investigate

Urgent Investigation / Within 24 hours

  • Cases of food poisoning with laboratory confirmation;

  • Allegation of pests infesting a food business (rats, mice and cockroaches only with physical sightings and/or other clear evidence e.g. mouse droppings);

  • Foreign body complaint where the contaminant has caused actual physical injury or where there is a high likelihood that it could cause physical injury (e.g. glass in food, small pieces of metal in food). If possible such items including all packaging and receipts should be delivered by the complainant to the food team for investigation;

  • Unfit food for sale;

  • Service requests received from a local MP or District Councillor.


Investigation of complaints and problems within 3 working days

  • Food poisoning allegation where there is more than one victim identified and/or the victim is in a risk group i.e. under five year olds, elderly, sick, immuno-compromised or the victim is an open food handler (as long as they are willing to see GP and submit faecal specimen). If the allegation is of a suspected outbreak, we will use our discretion to determine whether to escalate the case for urgent investigation;

  • A complaint concerning food sold past the "use-by" date (as long as food is identified);

  • Allegations of poor hygiene in a food business where there is a definite risk to public health. For example, where the allegation is of cross contamination, dirty condition of the business, undercooked food or poor personal hygiene by staff;

  • An allegation of food poisoning where we have received other similar complaints within the past month;

  • A food hygiene complaint where practices are perceived to be poor, e.g. food handlers wearing dirty clothing, or not washing their hands etc.

  • Complaints received from bodies such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) or DEFRA. 
Updated: 23 Oct 2019
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