Food safety and premises hygiene concerns

What do Inverclyde Council do?

Officers within the Food Safety team will investigate concerns regarding food safety from food and drink which has been purchased or consumed, or concerns about the premises selling food.  Typical subjects of complaint include:

  • concerns about food premises hygiene standards
  • contaminated food or drink
  • food or drink causing illness*
  • food being mislabelled or advertised incorrectly
  • out of date food

*If you believe you are suffering from food poisoning you should contact your GP for further investigation/treatment.

Reporting food safety or hygiene concerns

If you have concerns or enquiries regarding any of these issues you should contact the Customer Service Centre, in confidence, for advice and assistance from Inverclyde Council's Food Safety team, using the contact details on this page. 

Our involvement and response will vary depending on the nature of the issue. Once we have received notification of your concern it's likely we will contact you for further information.  Anonymous food safety service requests will be investigated, however that investigation will be limited.  To allow us to fully investigate your request you should provide us with:

  • Your name, address and if possible a contact telephone number
  • The name and address of the food premises
  • Date of suspected incident

Your details will not be disclosed to the business unless we have your permission. Our investigation will consider whether there is a risk to food safety, and if so we will take appropriate action to ensure the food business operator and staff address any problems identified.

The following information will hopefully help you decide if you need to make us aware of any concerns you have with the safety of food sold within the Inverclyde Council area.

Concerns about food premises hygiene standards

If you have visited a food business in the Inverclyde Council area and were concerned by poor standards of cleanliness, or other hygiene matters you should contact us. The type of response provided will be dependent on the nature of the concern. Sometimes we will record lower priority concerns for consideration during future visits rather than carry out an immediate visit. We will prioritise our response to concerns where there is serious risk of food contamination in food handling and preparation areas.

Contaminated food and drink

If you are supplied with or purchase food or drink which is contaminated (for example containing a foreign body, with a bad smell, mouldy) then you should contact us.

We cannot arrange compensation for you but we can assist in identifying a wider problem with the safety or quality of a particular food or drink product.

We will need to see any of the food which you still have so we generally can't carry out an investigation if you decide to return the food to the shop or manufacturer for a refund. It's important that you keep all the food, not just a foreign body. You should place it in a suitable container, for example the original packaging, a food bag or an air tight sandwich box, and keep it in your fridge. If there's a delay in getting the complaint to us, for example over a weekend, you should keep it in the freezer. If a foreign body is embedded in the food don't try to remove it.

Keep all the packaging, including the lids of cans and tops of packets for example, as they may be needed to identify the factory where the food was made or the date and time of manufacture. Keep the receipt, if possible, as we will need information regarding where and when it was purchased. We also need to know when you discovered the problem and any other details to help us investigate the issue.

Sometimes further testing of food is required to identify the nature of the problem, and where the contamination occurred. This can involve lab tests being carried out, and also involvement of other local authorities in the investigation of the concern. This can mean that some investigations can take a long time.

Food or drink causing illness

If you are concerned that food or drink you have purchased from a premises in the Inverclyde Council area has made you ill you should be aware of the following:

There are many factors which could have contributed to your illness. Many people will assume that it's the food they have eaten outside the home, or produced by someone else which has made them ill. Food poisoning and illness can only be confirmed by lab tests, and you should contact your GP and submit a faecal specimen to find out if this has caused your illness. There are many different bacteria, or viruses, that can cause food poisoning and these results will help us to identify a likely source. If you are tested and confirmed with food poisoning we will be notified by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. 

We may not investigate single cases of alleged illness, unless lab tests confirm a problem, but this decision will take into account all the information currently available, including the history of the food business involved. If we receive a number of similar notifications from others then this makes a link to a particular premises or food or drink product more of a concern.

Where an investigation is carried out we will deal with any food safety concerns we identify as a result.

Food being mislabelled or incorrectly advertised

It is against the law to provide false or misleading information about food and drink being sold. It is also against the law not to provide certain important information for consumers regarding food and drink which is being sold.

Sometimes food or drink is labelled or described falsely to gain financial advantage for example cheaper, poorer quality foods being passed off as more expensive and higher quality. In some cases officers can visit and discover evidence of this taking place in a business, and in other cases lab tests require to be carried out to see if the food or drink is what it is claimed to be.

Such concerns will tend to be noted against the premises, and will be considered by the next inspecting officer, or the premises highlighted for testing of the food or drink of concern as part of our sampling plan. More prompt investigations are likely if there are previous concerns or failures identified with the business.

Out of date food

There are 2 types of expiry date that are legally required - "use by" and "best before". It is a legal requirement to ensure that food which has a "use by" date is not sold after that date. It's not against the law to sell food beyond the "best before" date.

If your concern relates to best before dates we normally record this against the business and follow it up at the next routine inspection. If foods are being sold beyond their "use by" date a visit will usually be carried out; especially if there have been previous concerns or warnings given.