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Food Safety - Report a Hygiene/Contamination Problem

Let Environmental Health Services know if you have observed poor hygiene in local food outlets; have bought food which is contaminated or unsafe; or wish to bring any other food safety concerns to our attention.

If you ever buy food at any time which you feel is unsafe or not to the standard you expect, you may understandably want to complain.

This could be a complaint direct to the premises from where you purchased the food, their head office, or depending upon the nature of the complaint, the local Environmental Health or Trading Standards department.


WHERE TO SEND YOUR COMPLAINT

Both Basildon Borough Council and Essex County Council Trading Standards Department deal with food complaints (determined by the nature of the complaint).

Environmental Health at Basildon Borough Council (01268 533333) deals with complaints about food purchased in the Basildon Borough, for example:

  • Foreign bodies in food, e.g. pieces of glass, string, insects, etc.
  • Food that has or could have caused illness, e.g. as a result of chemical or bacterial contamination.
  • Food that is sold beyond the "USE BY" date.
  • Mouldy food
Online form - Report bad hygiene / food contamination / illegal foodstuffs  - let Environmental Health Services know if you have observed poor hygiene in local food outlets, have bought food which is contaminated or unsafe, or wish to bring any other food safety concerns to our attention.
On receiving your complaint, a food safety officer will contact you and if necessary arrange to see you within 2 working days, to complete the complaint details and collect any offending food items.
Alternatively, you may wish to bring your complaint and the offending food items to the council offices.
If you live in the Basildon Borough but bought the food in another local authority's area, we may be able to arrange for the food complaint to be passed on to the relevant local authority on your behalf.

Trading Standards at Essex County Council deal with:

  • Food that is sold beyond the "BEST BEFORE" date (but only if there is something wrong with it - it is not an automatic offence to sell food beyond its "BEST BEFORE" date)
  • Food that is not of the quality expected, e.g. stale
  • Food which is "mis-described" or labelled incorrectly
Please read the following information carefully before you decide how to proceed with your complaint, as it outlines how we deal with food complaints.
The primary aim of the Environmental Health Service is to prevent a recurrence of a problem rather than to pursue compensation for complainants.
In order for us to conduct a meaningful investigation we will need to take the offending food items into our possession.
A large number of food complaints are dealt with informally - most manufacturers are concerned about both food safety and their public image. They may like to offer their apologies and often include a small amount in gift vouchers as recompense.
Basildon Council's Environmental Health services are not in the position to obtain compensation for you from the companies involved, nor are we able to pursue claims for personal injury.
If you consider a claim for compensation to be appropriate, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible - Therefore please be aware that if you have given any offending foodstuffs to us in relation to a complaint, we cannot guarantee to return them to you, as this may hinder our own investigations.

In addition, you must be aware that If you have already received some recompense (e.g. refund) from the seller before coming to us, it may be that we will no longer be able to pursue your complaint, as in the eyes of the law you have no longer been "prejudiced" by the sale of the food.

HOW TO STORE A FOOD COMPLAINT

If you still have the subject of the food complaint in your possession, it is important that you store it correctly as soon as possible to avoid any deterioration of the food.
  • Foods such as salads, milk, canned foods, bottled foods should be refrigerated.
  • Store the food in a sealed container or bag in the freezer.
  • Dry foods, e.g. pasta, flour, biscuits do not need to be refrigerated or frozen.

If the complaint is about insects in food which may still be alive (usually in dry goods) seal the packet and insects in another bag or plastic container.

HOW WE DEAL WITH COMPLAINTS.

When the complaint is brought in, we will try to obtain as much information as possible about the circumstances of purchase and the discovery of the complaint.

Sometimes, even at this early stage we might ask you to provide a "witness statement" that gives a formal account of what happened should the case go to court. Asking for a witness statement or if you are available to give evidence in court does not mean automatically that we will prosecute; it helps us mostly to collect information from you while it is still fresh in your memory.

We might extend our investigations by contacting the vendor, manufacturer, importer of the food or other local authorities. Sometimes we might ask the opinion of experts regarding the complaint. If similar complaints have been investigated previously we might draw conclusions about your complaint at an early stage.

It is important to emphasize that the decision to prosecute or take legal action lies entirely with this department. When taking such a decision professional officers will take into account a combination of factors, commonly these are:
  • the seriousness of the alleged offence
  • any explanation offered by the food business concerned and their previous history
  • the likelihood of the food premises being able to establish a "due diligence" defence (Food premises have in law a defence called "due diligence" that allows the premises to be found "not guilty" if they can show that they took all reasonable steps in preventing the occurrence of an offence).
  • the evidence given by an important witness (e.g. the complainant), and their willingness to cooperate
  • the willingness of the food premises to prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • whether other action, such as a formal caution, service of an improvement notice or imposing a prohibition would be more appropriate or effective.

   
We will keep you informed about progress during the investigation of the case. Sometimes it may take several weeks or even months to collect all the relevant information. If you would like an update at any stage please contact us, using the details below. 
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