Complaints about food

Complaints about hygiene in food premises

If you have a complaint regarding food hygiene in a restaurant, cafe, takeaway or a shop located within the borough of Ealing, you can contact us on 020 8825 6666 or email

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

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 it is located.

How to make a food complaint

Regulatory services officers will deal with food complaints that pose a public risk. For the food safety team to take formal action there must be:

  • A public 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 company involved has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent the issue.

Any formal action must also comply with Ealing Council’s enforcement policy. The food safety team can be contacted by using the details at the top of this page.

Regulatory services officers will deal with:

  • Food that is not safe to eat or actually makes you ill
  • 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 product.
  • Food that contains a foreign object, such as glass in a cake
  • Chemical contamination of food and improper use of additives
  • Composition of food, for instance sausages must contain a minimum percentage of meat
  • Adulterated (tampered with) food
  • Labelling offences and misleading claims including ‘Halal’ and ‘organic’
  • Quality and nature of food, for example cod sold as haddock or chicken containing excess added water.

Some important points when making a complaint:

  • Do keep all receipts
  • Do obtain the exact name and address where the food was purchased
  • Do keep the food in its original packaging - don’t throw away any of the food
  • Do keep perishable food in the refrigerator (especially if your complaint involves decomposition or ‘off’ smells and tastes)
  • Do read the labelling carefully with particular attention to ‘use by’/‘best before’ dates and instructions for use
  • 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.

The food safety team is not able to assist with compensation claims.

Common food complaints and the action that should be taken

Canned food

  • Field insects, wasps and fruit flies
    Insects that live naturally in fields may be harvested along with fruit and vegetables. Whilst food companies take steps to remove these insects, some will slip through the net. These insects and grubs are killed and sterilised by the canning process.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.
  • Mould
    Dented, damaged or incorrectly processed cans may allow mould growth to occur. This could indicate an error in production or storage.
    Possible public health risk - contact the Food Safety Team.


  • Glowing fish
    Luminous bacteria can sometimes be found on seafood. Crabmeat, cooked shrimps, prawns or processed seafood products made from surimi are the most common seafood associated with luminescence or glowing. It does not mean the seafood is unsafe or of low quality.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.
  • Codworm
    White fish such as cod or haddock may be infested with small, round brownish-yellow worms. They are found in the flesh. They are killed by cooking and are harmless to humans.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.
  • Glass-like crystals
    Certain naturally occurring elements commonly found in fish may develop into hard crystals during the canning process. It is especially common in canned salmon. These crystals may be mistaken for glass fragments and are called struvite. They are not harmful and will be broken down by stomach acids when swallowed. Struvite crystals will dissolve if placed in vinegar and gently heated. Glass will not dissolve.
    If struvite: no public health risk - contact retailer.
    If glass: public health risk – contact the food safety team..

Vegetables and fruit

  • Stones, soil and slugs
    Fruit and vegetables commonly have soil, stones or small slugs adhering to them.
    No public health risk - wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly.
  • Greenfly
    Salad vegetables, especially lettuce, may have greenfly attached. Greenfly are difficult to wash off but are not harmful. In fact they demonstrate that the salad is fresh.
    No public health risk - no action required.
  • Mould
    Mould growth will naturally occur when fruit and vegetables become damaged and bruised, or if stored for too long. We recommend that you check produce before purchase.
    Possible public health risk - dispose of mouldy produce.


  • Bloom
    Chocolate may develop a light coloured bloom if stored at too high a temperature. It is not mould but due to fat separation. It is not harmful.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.
  • Crystals
    Large crystals may form in confectionery and may be mistaken for glass. The crystals will dissolve in warm water.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.

Dried foods

  • Insects
    Insects like beetles and weevils may infest dried products such as flour, sugar and pulses if they are stored too long. These do not carry disease, but they breed very quickly in warm, humid conditions and spread into uncontaminated food very quickly.
    No public health risk.
    Do not use an insecticide because of the danger of contaminating your food. Dispose of all visibly infested packages in an outside waste bin. Thoroughly clean the cupboards using a vacuum cleaner paying particular attention to crevices. Immediately after use, dispose of the cleaner contents in an outside waste bin. Store new dried goods in airtight containers and ensure good ventilation in storage areas.


  • Skin, bone, other animal material
    Products made from meat and/or poultry may contain small bones, skin, hair, bristles or parts of blood vessels. These are unsightly but rarely a health hazard.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.


  • Crystals
    Tartrate crystals; also known as “wine diamonds” are a natural product of the wine, and form when the wine gets too cold. Simply sift the crystals out of the wine. The crystals are not harmful in any way.
    No public health risk - contact retailer.
    If glass: possible public health risk – contact the food safety team.

Durability dates

  • Use by date: Food purchased beyond its ‘use by date’.
    Possible public health risk - contact the food safety team.
  • Best before date: Food, which is beyond its ‘best before date’ at purchase but otherwise, appears to be wholesome.
    No public health risk.


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.