Food Complaints

The Comhairle investigates complaints about food sold within its area to protect public health and ensure that food and food packaging meets the relevant legal standards. When the food is purchased outside the Comhairle's area, the complainant will be advised of the relevant local authority that should deal with their complaint. In accordance with national guidance standards, we may assist in transferring the food to that authority.

The Comhairle Will Investigate Complaints Of

  • Contamination by micro-organisms or their toxins
  • Contamination by mould or foreign matter/object
  • Unfit food
  • Chemical contamination or improper use of substances in food so as to pose a risk of injury to health
  • Compositional offences, adulteration and misleading claims
  • Poor or improper labelling
  • Food sold after its best before or use by date
  • Poor quality food
  • Separate procedures are operated for allegations of food poisoning or food hygiene

Making a Complaint

When you make a complaint we will initially need to know:

  • Your name, address, telephone contact numbers (mobile, home and work), fax and e-mail contact details as appropriate
  • The identity and contact address of the person who discovered the complaint issue, if it was not you
  • As much as possible about the complaint – where you bought it; when; the condition of the packaging etc.
  • The history to the point of discovery – did you have it delivered; did you buy it and take it home; where was the product stored
  • What you have done with it and any treatment it has undergone whilst in your possession
  • The name and address of any witnesses who were present when you discovered the problem
  • Any ill effects or any injuries that were suffered
  • Whether you have been to hospital or contacted your GP about any ill effects
  • Any contact you have had with the vendor or manufacturer
  • Any evidence you have, including packaging, the complaint item, residue food, receipts etc.

You may also be asked whether you would be prepared to give a statement and evidence in Court, if necessary.

Your Complaint – What Happens Now?

Decision as to Proposed Action

 A decision as to likely action will be taken depending on the following factors:

  1. How any contamination or defect occurred – accidental damage, malicious tampering, etc., are likely to be beyond the defendant's control
  2. The seriousness of the offence, especially the risk to health
  3. Whether it is in the public's interest to prosecute
  4. The likelihood of the defendant being able to establish a due diligence defence

Possible Outcomes

  1. Complaint unsubstantiated – examples may be because of insufficient evidence, the article complained of is actually a normal part of the product (commonly spices, etc.) or the damage occurred after sale.
  2. Complaint is justified, but beyond the control of the manufacturer or retailer, e.g. malicious tampering whilst on display - normally reported to the Police.
  3. Complaint is justified, but is understandable given the nature of the product and the volumes produced, e.g. foreign body has similar appearance and properties as ingredient thereby avoiding detection.  It is impossible to avoid all fault especially with products grown in fields etc. The occasional insect can be found despite precautions taken by the processor.
  4. Complaint is undesirable, however, has no real significance to health, e.g. traces of food grade oil in product, traces of brown dough in white loaf. Normally the producer’s attention would be drawn to the defect.
  5. Complaint substantiated, however, company has high standards and is willing to take all remedial action – informal action by the Local Authority to secure improved standards in processing and procedures.
  6. Complaint substantiated, but detailed examinations of plant and procedures demonstrate the company had done everything possible to avoid the problem.  Again the Company will be written to, but legal action is not possible as there is a defence of "due diligence".
  7. Complaint substantiated, company considered to have been reckless or negligent, will result in a report to the Procurator Fiscal

Please note – it is not the role of Consumer & Environmental Services to be involved in matters of compensation.

Time Scales

The length of time it takes to conclude our investigation can vary significantly. In simple straightforward cases you may be notified of our conclusions within a day or two.

Where articles are sent to the Public Analyst or enquiries involve another Local Authority in whose area the production plant is situated, such involvements will commonly incur at least a 28 day apparent delay.

Where legal action follows it will often be 4 to 9 months from complaint to initial Court appearance.

Should you at any time wish to know the situation relating to your complaint, please telephone the investigating officer direct or the relevant office number – Stornoway 01851 822 694 or Balivanich 01870 604 990.

Final Conclusion

Whatever the final outcome of our investigations, we will advise you and, with your consent, pass your name and address to the producer, etc. in order that they may apologise direct.

For further information please Contact Us.