Food Complaints

What is a food complaint?

If you purchase food from a shop or had a meal at a restaurant or café and found it contained something that should not be there, for example a hair or piece of plastic, then this can be classed as a food complaint.

We also investigate complaints about hygiene standards in food businesses.

Who should I contact?

If you have a complaint about any food or drink you have purchased you may complain to the Health Protection Team at Winchester City Council, Hampshire County Council Trading Standards Department or complain to the seller direct.

To assist consumers we have produced an information sheet detailing some of the most common food complaints, details of why they occur and advice about the action that you should take. You can download a copy of this advice sheet at the bottom of this page. 

If you return the product to the place of purchase you can discuss the matter with the proprietor. However, it is very difficult for the investigating authorities to deal with the complaint if you have returned the product.

You should therefore make a decision on what you expect from your complaint prior to complaining i.e. money back, replacement or any other compensation. Enforcement authorities cannot deal with any claims of compensation or refunds. This is a matter between the complainant and the retailer or manufacturer.

If you bring the complaint to the attention of Winchester City Council, the Health Protection Team will investigate the complaint to establish the nature and seriousness of the problem. It may be necessary to liaise with another local authority as the investigation is carried out where the product was purchased.

The Health Protection Team investigates complaints such as:

  • Food containing foreign bodies e.g. insects, metal, glass
  • Food which is mouldy
  • Food that is contaminated or unfit

Trading Standards will deal with complaints such as:

  • Food that is past its 'use by date', unless the food is unfit then the Health Protection Team will deal with it
  • Complaints about the quality of the food
  • Labelling and false descriptions of food and drink

What will happen to my food complaint?

Once the officer investigating your complaint has collected the relevant information, the most appropriate action will be determined by reference to national and local guidance on food safety. You may find that your complaint has been referred to another Authority to investigate if it has been purchased outside the Local Authority's area or should be dealt with by another agency such as Trading Standards Departments or the Meat Hygiene Service.

In many cases, action taken will be informal. The investigating officer will give you an explanation of the outcome of the investigation and with your agreement disclose your details, i.e. name, address, etc. to the food business concerned. The Customer Services Section of most major food companies like to contact customers to provide assurance of the quality of their products. In other cases, the investigating Authority may wish to deal with matters in a more formal manner and take legal action. When this is necessary you will be requested to produce formal statements and further details may be requested from yourself.

It may take several weeks for the investigation to collect all the necessary evidence on which to decide what action is appropriate. You will always be kept informed of the outcome of the investigation and this is normally done in writing.

Can I get Compensation?

The Council will not attempt to gain compensation on your behalf, as this is a matter between the complainant and the retailer or the manufacturer.