Belfast Telegraph

Creepy-crawlies leave bad taste in Irish diners' mouths

By Aideen Sheehan

A live beetle in a bag of salad, a moth in a Madeira cake and a zip in a black pudding were among the nasty surprises encountered by consumers in their food last year.

A new report from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) shows that it received complaints from more than 2,000 customers about unfit food, poor hygiene and other problems last year.

A tooth in a bag of nuts, a needle in a teabag, a cotton bud in a sandwich and a stone in a muesli bar were among the items reported.

Many consumers came across insects in their food, including wasps, flies and cockroaches, both living and dead.

Hygiene concerns at food businesses included staff not wearing hairnets when handling food, no hot water or soap in toilet facilities, as well as insects and rodents visible to customers.

The FSAI received a total 10,989 queries and complaints to their advice line in 2010, which included a 7pc increase in the number of complaints to 2,126.

There were 914 complaints about unfit food and another 433 relating to suspect food poisoning.

Some 402 consumers complained about hygiene standards, while 156 objected to incorrect information on food labels and 25 people complained about incorrect advertising of food.

The FSAI said that it followed up all complaints swiftly, with environmental health officers visiting premises to investigate the complaints.

FSAI Information Manager Edel Conway said that in cases where underlying problems were found, and where there were serious problems identified, enforcement action or prosecutions could be taken.

Others simply required reminders of food safety standards or training requirements to prevent a problem recurring.

In cases where a potential issue of contamination on a food production line was identified, the company producing the food or the FSAI often instituted a recall of the batch affected.

"Consumers are becoming more vigilant; they expect and should get an adequate standard of food hygiene in every food establishment and across every food product they purchase," Ms Conway said.

She urged anyone witnessing poor hygiene or food safety standards to report it to them for further investigation.

Ms Conway said that the increase in complaints probably related to greater awareness of the FSAI and the growing number of food businesses.

There had been a surge of 15pc in all calls made to their advice line last year, which included queries on the legal requirements for starting up a new food business, food safety training information, food legislation and requests for FSAI publications.

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