Complaints about a food business

Ealing Council can investigate complaints about premises located, and food bought, provided, or manufactured, in Ealing. However, officers will not be carrying out visits to commercial or domestic premises unless they are deemed critical to public health.

You can register a complaint with the food safety team by email to or via telephone call on 020 8825 6666.

If the premises in question is not located within the London borough of Ealing, unfortunately, we will not be able to assist you. You will instead need to contact the local authority where the business is located.

Complaints are prioritised for investigation according to the food complaints policy.

How to make a food complaint in three steps

Step one

Providing your complaint relates to a food business or food purchased or consumed within the borough of Ealing, we can investigate or offer advice in relation to complaints about:

  • items of food purchased at restaurants, takeaways, and retail shops
  • poor standards of hygiene or practices at food premises
  • allegations that food has caused illness or food poisoning
  • foreign bodies (items that should not be in food)
  • chemical and allergenic contamination
  • food that is for sale past its ‘use-by date’
    • we do not investigate complaints of food being sold past its ‘best before’ date unless the food item is unsafe or otherwise unfit
  • food that is so contaminated that it could not reasonably be eaten, for example, mouldy bakery products
  • labelling offences and misleading claims including ‘Halal’ and ‘organic’
    • the fundamental rule of the labelling of foodstuffs is that consumers should not be misled. Detailed labelling of a product educates consumers as to the exact nature and characteristics of the foodstuff and enables them to make a more informed choice.
    • for relatively minor problems, it is best to complain directly to the company that sold you the food, without involving the food safety team

There are certain complaints that we cannot investigate, these include:

  • complaints about food quality, for example, over-ripe fruit or vegetables
  • where there is an undue delay between the problem happening and you telling us about it
  • where you are seeking a refund, a replacement, or other compensation
  • where your complaint is about customer service
  • if you have not kept the food product in question - an investigation can be very difficult to carry out if there is no evidence such as the food or proof of purchase

If your complaint is about rubbish, waste or fly tipping on the street, this should be referred to the street services team.

Step two

What information is required from you regarding your complaint:

  • address of premises and date the food was bought - please keep the receipt if possible
  • if possible, keep the food in its original packaging – do not throw away any of the food
  • do keep perishable foods in the refrigerator (especially if your complaint involves decomposition or ‘off’ smells and tastes)
  • do not be tempted to handle or pull out any foreign object found in the food - leave it in place
  • do not put the food in a place where further deterioration or contamination could take place
  • if you have any pictures or videos taken of the food or premises, please share these as part of your complaint
  • do read the labelling carefully, with particular attention to ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates and instructions for use
  • you should provide details of how the problem has affected you - if you suspect you have food poisoning, it must be confirmed by a doctor

Step three

On receipt of a valid complaint, the food safety team will send you an acknowledgment email or phone call. Food safety officers do not visit every food business after receiving a complaint. We will evaluate the public health risks and decide on what to do next. Often, officers will address the problems you reported at that business's next scheduled food hygiene inspection. For the food safety team to take formal action there must be:

  • a public health risk
  • a good chain of evidence, for example, detail of where the food was bought, conditions of storage, and any relevant packaging
  • evidence that the business involved has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent the issue

Any formal action must also comply with Ealing Council’s enforcement policy.

We may need to inform the businesses that we have received a complaint about them.  Please be assured that we will never give any personal or identifying details to the business. We may however need to share your details with other organisations such as the Food Standard Agency.

Please note we cannot pursue any compensation or refund claims on your behalf.

Reporting an alleged food poisoning

You should always report your illness to your doctor who may request a stool sample. If the council or the doctors are provided with a stool sample, it can be tested to determine what could have caused your illness. We always encourage you to provide samples. This is essential to identify the exact causative agent and further link it to the food associated with the outbreak. Without these test results, our investigation is limited.

You may need to give a food history of up to five days before becoming ill to assist with any investigation. Please provide details in your complaint of:

  • other people you have eaten with have also been ill
  • food and drinks consumed on the day and 48 hours before symptoms started
  • date and times of the alleged accident

Dealing with a complaint yourself

There are many scenarios where you can deal with a complaint yourself. When dealing with a complaint yourself, we recommend you follow these steps:

  1. go back to the trader and explain your problem - Take along any evidence you have, such as copies of receipts and packaging (keep the originals yourself). If possible, take a photograph of any food or foreign bodies and then store the original items in the freezer to prevent deterioration.
  2. put your complaint in writing to the business - Keep a copy of the letter and send it by recorded delivery or via email. In your letter/email, explain the complaint and the action you would like the trader to take to solve the problem.
  3. contact us - if you are still not satisfied with the outcome, you can contact the food safety team by email to or via telephone call on 020 8825 6666.