Help with food complaints

This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to consumers. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.

If you have a complaint about any food or drink there may be two ways of sorting out the problem.

Dealing with the complaint yourself

When you buy food, you enter into a contract with the seller. If the food is unsatisfactory the seller may be in breach of contract and you may be entitled in CIVIL LAW to compensation. You should take up your complaint yourself with the seller.

Investigation by an Enforcement Officer

You may feel that your complaint is serious or worrying enough to require investigation by an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) or Trading Standards Officer (TSO). EHOs and TSOs are Enforcement Officers, who will investigate breaches of the Food Safety Act 1990 and take enforcement action were appropriate.

To enable enforcement officers to prosecute a trader you may be required to make a formal witness statement and to give evidence in court. However, not all investigations will lead to prosecution. Sometimes, the offender will receive a caution/ written warning instead, or there may be insufficient evidence to take the matter to court.

Generally EHOs deal with issues which could cause harm to human health and TSOs deal with issues of false and misleading descriptions.

Contact an Enforcement Officer

The Citizens Advice consumer service will pass any issues which may require action by an enforcement officer to the local enforcement services for consideration. Alternatively you may contact your local EHO or TSO directly.

Contact Hampshire County Council Trading Standards if your food complaint concerns:

  • misdescribed food
  • badly or improperly labelled food
  • poor quality food or food which does not meet compositional standards
  • watered down or adulterated food
  • chemical contamination

We may have to refer the matter to the Council where the product was purchased or packed

Contact your local district council or unitary authority if your food complaint concerns:

  • food poisoning
  • unfit food through contamination
  • poor hygiene in storage or preparation
  • food which poses a risk to public health
  • mouldy food
  • foreign objects in food eg glass, metal, human or animal debris
  • dirt in milk bottles
Not sure of what to do

If you are not sure what to do, just contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133, and ask for their advice.

They will pass any issues which may require action by an enforcement officer to the local enforcement services for consideration. If you wish to make an anonymous complaint you are welcome to do so.