The Environmental Health Department will investigate a complaint concerning food products sold within Derry City and Strabane District Council area if:
- The food contains a foreign object which poses a serious health risk e.g. glass or metal;
- The food is unfit for human consumption e.g. it has deteriorated or has become contaminated to an extent that the food would be harmful if eaten, and forms part of a larger batch or consignment;
- Contains insects which might suggest a public health problem at the place of the sale, catering or manufacture of the food, e.g. cockroaches, but not insects like greenfly or caterpillars that are naturally occurring and found commonly in fruit and vegetables;
- It has an impact locally, regionally or nationally;
- There is very good evidence to take formal action e.g. if it relates to a foreign object or body being found in food that there must be very good evidence that it was in the food when purchased.
Therefore, if the food complaint is a serious health risk and you would like us to investigate it, you should follow these steps below:
- If the food is perishable, keep the food in the fridge or freezer;
- Ensure you keep the food, wrapping, labels and receipt safe;
- Keep the food in its original container, if possible;
- Do not handle foreign objects – do not displace the foreign object if it is embedded in the food.
It is important to remember that if the food item was purchased outside this Council area you should take it to that local authority for investigation.
If your complaint does not meet our investigation criteria or pose a serious health risk then unfortunately we cannot deal with it. We suggest that instead you return the food to the shop that you purchased it from, bring it to their attention and ask for a refund. Pre-packed foods should be dealt with by writing or phoning the manufacturer, explaining the nature of the complaint and ask them to investigate it. Their contact details should be on the labelling of the product. The manufacturer should be requested to inform you of an explanation of how the problem arose and any action taken as a result, to prevent it recurring.
How to make the complaint?
You can contact one of the food safety officers on 028 71253253 or alternatively email your details to [email protected]
You may remain anonymous but if you do, we are then unable to take formal action without your name and address.
We will get in touch with you and ask you to bring the item to the council offices and sign a declaration of the release of the food complaint. We may also ask you to provide a witness statement and attend court if legal proceedings are required. Our procedures require us to contact the following:
- The premises where you bought the food, or their head office;
- The manufacturer or importer of the food;
- The local authority in which the manufacturer or importer of the food is based.
Information will be requested from these parties particularly concerning any precautions that they may be taking to prevent such food complaints from recurring. If necessary the food may be sent to a laboratory for analysis; this also may result in the destruction of the food.
At the end of the investigation there are a range of options open to the council ranging from taking no further action at all, to prosecuting the person or company at fault. This decision will depend on a number of factors:
- The nature of the complaint;
- Whether there have been any other similar complaints;
- The controls or measures in place to try to prevent a complaint occurring;
- The controls or measures that are going to be put in place to prevent a similar complaint happening again.
The primary purpose of investigating food complaints is to safeguard public health. We cannot get a refund for your food or seek compensation on your behalf for any damages you may have suffered as a result of purchasing the food. If you wish to seek compensation you should contact a solicitor to seek legal advice and retain the food.
How long will the investigation take?
The investigation of a food complaint can take several weeks to months to complete. This is because of the delays caused by waiting for reports from companies, laboratories and local authorities.