Complaints about Food or Food Premises
How do we approach investigating complaints about food and food premises
Complaints will be investigated in accordance with national guidance issued by the Food Standards Agency and LACORS, and with relevant internal policies and procedures.
Your name will not be disclosed to a third party, being protected by the Data Protection Act and exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (subject to you indicating that you wish your details to remain confidential). However, where the evidence you provide would be required as evidence in any legal proceedings, the Authority would be under an obligation to release your name if a criminal investigation is to be pursued. A criminal investigation would therefore only proceed subject to your support.
If you have a complaint about the conditions at a food premises, our officers will determine whether an investigation is necessary. In the majority of cases visits following food complaints will be undertaken unannounced by investigating officers, but there may be times when it is necessary to make an appointment, e.g. if it is necessary to assist in the effective investigation of the complaint. The inspecting officer will decide which option to adopt, depending on the circumstances of the complaint.
Where serious matters are brought to our attention, where there is a significant and potentially ongoing risk to public health or there is the potential for serious breaches of the legislation to occur, we would aim to conduct an investigation immediately and in any event within 24 hours. Such complaints are classified as high risk and would include:
- Sightings of rats, mice, cockroaches and other food pests in food premises.
- Poor food handling practices giving rise to significant risk of food contamination.
- Complaint of contamination of food which may give rise for the need for a product withdrawal and/or recall. This may be for foods that are prepared and distributed locally or nationally. If the food is not made in Pembrokeshire, liaison would take place with the Primary Authority and/or the Local Authority where the food was produced, for them to liaise with the manufacturing company and the Food Standards Agency to prevent further distribution of affected product and to recall foods already supplied to customers. If the food is made in Pembrokeshire, this Department would undertake the necessary liaison with the food business and the Food Standards Agency to ensure that all affected product is withdrawn.
Less serious complaints will be investigated within ten working days. Such medium risk complaints would include:
- Poor levels of structural cleanliness in kitchens or preparation rooms.
- Pets or animals in kitchens or preparation rooms.
Low risk complaints, which present little risk to public health, if any, or which provide evidence that good/best practice is not being followed, would not generally be subject to immediate investigation. Such matters would generally be reported to the business by telephone, to provide the business with an opportunity to investigate and address any shortcomings, and would be recorded on file for consideration at the time of the next visit/inspection
- Minor points of unsatisfactory cleanliness
- Food not being served at the right temperature
- Minor complaints of dirty cutlery or glasses
- Problems with ants in food premises
The Department, when categorising complaints would also take into account the past history of the premises, and would consider the frequency of complaints associated with the premises, the history of compliance with legislation noted on previous inspections, and the level of confidence that the Department has in the food business operator.
Where the food originates from outside the County, the complaint will be reported to, or investigated in liaison with, the relevant Home Authority and/or Originating Authority as appropriate.
Enforcement action resulting from an investigation will be taken in accordance with the Council's Food Safety and Standards Enforcement Policy.
Where food samples are submitted to the Public Analyst as part of the Council's investigation, a copy of the report will only be made available to the complainant where 50% of the fee for the analysis is paid.