Complaints about food businesses

Regulatory Services investigate complaints about food, the condition of food businesses or food hygiene practices.

We investigate two types of food complaint:

  • Complaints about food items and
  • Complaints about the condition of premises or food hygiene practices.

Complaints about food items

Discovering that food you have bought is contaminated in some way can be an unpleasant experience. Not all forms of food contamination are a risk to your health however.

The information below provides some typical examples of food complaint and the possible actions available.

Where was the food purchased from?

If the food was not purchased from a food business in Barnsley, you will need to contact the Local Authority where the food business is located. If you are not sure which Local Authority the food business is in you can contact the Food Standards Agency

What do I need to do?

If you still have the food you should keep it, along with any packaging and the receipt in a safe place until you have contacted us. If you are concerned about the safety of the food or if you think it has made you ill, you should keep it either refrigerated or frozen to avoid any further deterioration.

We will advise you what you need to do and we may arrange to collect the food complaint and any further information from you.  You may also be asked to provide a simple factual statement about the purchase and discovery of the offending food.

You will be asked to sign a declaration of release and this means that you are formally handing the food complaint over to us to investigate further. We will examine the complaint as soon as possible and discuss the most appropriate course of action to take with you.  We cannot get involved in any claims for compensation.

What action can a Food Safety Officer take?

We may have an informal discussion with the owner of the food business or we could take more formal action resulting in prosecution or even closure of the business.

In most cases the action taken will be informal. There is a defence available to a food business that is known as "due diligence". To rely on this as a defence in law the business needs to be able to show that it has taken all reasonable precautions to avoid the offence, and that they have exercised all due diligence during the production of the food.

When we investigate a food complaint, we consider the systems used by the company to prevent the complaint occurring.

If the manufacturer of the food is not in the Barnsley area, we will contact the Local Authority where the food was produced and ask them to report on production conditions and any similar complaints.

When we decide to pursue a complaint to prosecution we must first consider whether our action is in the public interest, as it can be very expensive and time consuming.

If we do decide to take formal action, this may be a prosecution in the Magistrates' Court or offering the food business a Simple Caution.

You will have to provide a witness statement and be prepared to attend the Court and give evidence if the food business is prosecuted. If a Simple Caution is issued, you will not need to attend court.

How long will the investigation take?

It may take a several weeks or even months for a complaint to be fully investigated as there are often a number of different agencies involved. Once the investigation is complete we will give you an explanation of the outcome.

Will the council negotiate for compensation on my behalf?

No. Our concern is whether or not the food business has complied with legal requirements. We cannot get involved in personal cases on your behalf. You should consult your own solicitor.

Is there any action I can take myself?

You can take the food back to the shop you bought it from and ask them to investigate the matter and report back to you. Alternatively you can contact the manufacturer of the product and ask them to investigate your complaint. The manufacturer details should be on the packaging.

Find out more about common food complaints and what to do about them.

Complaints about the condition of premises or food hygiene practices

We will investigate complaints of poor hygienic practices or dirty premises for food premises operating within the borough.

Find out more from the Food Standards Agency (FSA)