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Food complaints investigation process

What is the investigation process?

Investigation - Stage 1

The investigating officer will collect and examine the food to confirm the nature of the complaint and then decide whether or not we need the opinion of other experts. If so, the complaint may be sent to the Public Analyst or an expert with specialised knowledge.

This can provide valuable information such as the type and likely origin of foreign bodies, eg glass fragments. Sometimes complaints are not as they appear eg a fly found in a pie could turn out to be a piece of vegetable matter upon examination.

Investigation - Stage 2

The officer will decide whether further investigation is warranted and will update you. The officer may contact the manufacturer and local enforcement authority to find outabout the manufacturing process and establish as part of the investigation whether there is a history of complaints or if a serious manufacturing problem exists.

Investigation - Stage 3

Once the investigating officer has received sufficient information the officer will decide what form of follow up action to take.

Follow up action​

Informal action

​Some complaints are dealt with informally because the evidence received is not sufficient to satisfy a court of law 'beyond all reasonable doubt' or the offender has a 'due diligence' defence or it is deemed not be in the public interest to prosecute.

Formal action

​If the investigating officer is confident that an offence has been committed,appropriate evidence is available and the company does not appear to have a "due diligence" defence, formal action will be considered, such as the issuing of a Formal Caution or instigating legal proceedings.

If formal action is being taken the investigating officer will require you to give a witness statement and if necessary attend court.

Formal action may not be possible if you decide that you do not wish to provide us with a Witness Statement or are not willing to appear in Court.

 Time scales

Food complaint investigation can taken several months to resolve especially if formal action is being considered. The investigating officer will aim to keep you updated on a monthly basis.​

Can you claim compensation?

Our Services is not in a position to obtain compensation for you from the companies involved, nor are we able to pursue claims for personal injury. If you feel a claim is appropriate, you are recommended to seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Due diligence

Food safety offenses are 'strict liability' offences in that we do not have to prove that there was an intention to break the law. However, this is offset by following the food company a 'due diligence' defense. This defence allows the offender to be found 'not guilty' if he can prove that he took all reasonable steps to prevent the offence occurring. This means that we have to investigate what steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the food and whether more could have been done.

Food complaints examples

Environmental Health Officers receive many complaints about food each year. Foreign objects are common complaints. The information below gives some more information on typical problems and their significance.


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