How to complain about a food business

No matter how good a manufacturer or supplier of food is there will be times when something goes wrong and the food sold is not acceptable to you as the customer.

Always read the label carefully with particular attention to 'use by' / 'best before' dates and instructions for use. If you use food that is out of date, or not in accordance with the instructions, you can expect problems.

The Council's food team will normally only investigate food complaints if there is a serious health risk.

In the circumstances outlined in advice for consumers on common food complaints it is normally best to complain directly to the company that sold you the food, without involving the Council. A good business should listen to your concerns and try to address them even though it may not always be their fault. They may replace the food for you or give you your money back.


Complaints that Havering will not generally investigate but will be noted on the premises file as intelligence are:

  • An allegation of food poisoning without the person affected having consulted a doctor or having supplied a stool sample.
  • A complaint is made but the complainant does not know the name and address of the premises involved if after reasonable enquiry we cannot identify it.
  • A complaint is made but the complainant does not know the name and address of the premises involved if after reasonable enquiry we cannot identify it.
  • Anonymous complaints, because people can use the anonymity as an excuse to make malicious and vexatious complaints against food businesses.  We should treat them as intelligence but approach with caution
  • Complaints about premises outside of the London Borough of Havering
  • Food complaints purchased from premises outside of the London Borough of Havering. These will be referred to the local authority in whose area the food business is situated and you will be notified of the contact details of the enforcing authority.
  • Complaints where the food in question has been passed to the food business may not be investigated. We may investigate if significant.
  • Where the complainant is seeking compensation for the food complaint and only wants the local authority to support this claim. (Compensation is a civil matter)
  • Poor food quality, for example, over-ripe fruit, blemishes on fruit skins or when a meal is served cold. It may make the food unsightly and unappetising but does not make the food a health risk.
  • Poor customer service where the complainant is unhappy with the way they have been treated by the food business operator and their staff, especially if they have complained.
  • Very low risk food hygiene complaints, for example, food staff handling money, food staff not wearing gloves, food staff not wearing head gear.
  • Food is being sold beyond its “best before” date is not an offence and will not be investigated.

Types of food complaints.pdf

Report a food safety / hygiene problem

Complaint investigation

If you have consulted the advice for consumers on common food complaints web pages and wish to make a complaint please use the on line form. We will then investigate your complaint where it is appropriate to do so.

When we investigate we will have two main aims:

  • To identify and prevent risk to public health
  • To investigate possible food safety offences

We will confirm the details with you and provide you with an initial assessment of your complaint and give you details of how to keep in touch with us.

What we need to know

We need to know:

  • Where and when you bought the food
  • How the food was packaged when you bought it
  • How you stored the food since purchase
  • How you discovered the cause for complaint
  • How your complaint affected you (for example, were you injured or ill?)
  • As your complaint could lead to prosecution, we may ask you and other witnesses to provide statements

While a complainant's details are normally kept confidential and are not routinely released they will need to be made public if legal proceedings are taken.

If necessary, we send samples of food to a Council appointed Public Analyst who gives us an expert opinion on what is wrong with it. The food is often destroyed during analysis we cannot return it to you later.

We will consider what precautions the businesses involved have been taken to prevent your complaint. If the complaint arose through circumstances which could not have been foreseen or prevented the law prevents the Council from taking action. In these cases no further action will be taken and we will notify you that the case has been closed.

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