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Food safety or hygiene common concerns

The Health Compliance Team is a collective name for the team of Environmental Health Officers that deal with all food issues, health and safety, community and public health matters. If you have a concern about a food business this is the team you should report it to by way of the online reporting system. The team cannot necessarily deal with all complaints, only those where there is a risk to public health.

What is food safety?

Food safety or food standards is the trading standards element of food and includes the following areas:

  • Dates and durability of food - ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates
  • Labelling of any food item - wording, quantities, clarity
  • Ingredients and composition of food - declaration of ingredients, allergen information
  • Quality of food and unfit food
  • Claims and marketing or advertising wording relating to food
  • Descriptions and true names of foods
  • Food fraud
  • Imported foods

What is food hygiene?

Food hygiene incorporates aspects of food microbiology, premises used for food trade ranging from manufacture to retail or storage, practices used in the storage, production, service or sale of food items. This also includes the people involved with food either preparation, handling and distributing or service and sale. 

The list below outlines the type of food hygiene problem you may want to know more about or report to us:

  • Contaminated food - by microbiological activity, mould or decay, foreign body contamination, chemical contamination
  • Cross contamination – practices, raw and ready to eat, equipment
  • Temperature control - keeping cold food cold and hot food hot, suitable refrigerated storage, effective cooking practices
  • Personal hygiene – people involved with food must have a good standard of personal hygiene, clean protective clothes, regular and effective handwashing
  • Premises in which food is stored, prepared and handled - condition, cleaning, repair, suitability, pest free
  • Suspected food poisoning - believed to be associated with a particular food or food business in Swindon

What if I've bought some food and found a problem?

Food businesses have a legal duty to sell only food that is fit to eat, is of a satisfactory standard of quality and is labelled properly. There can be naturally occurring issues with certain foods that may make the food look less appetising but these are not necessarily a risk to health. 

For more information please see the Common Food Complaints (PDF) document.

It is not illegal to sell food after its 'best before' date. 'Best before' dates mean that the manufacturer guarantees that the food will be of best quality up to that date. After that date the quality may decline. 'Best before' dates are usually for longer life products. If the quality of the product is affected, we may take this as a complaint. For more information on 'best before' dates and 'use by' dates, visit the Food Standards Agency (FSA) website.

Do we investigate all food complaints?

No. There are some complaints that we will not investigate because there is no risk to public health or safety. Although we may not be in a position to investigate your complaint, the information may still be useful for consideration at the businesses next food hygiene inspection. How we investigate complaints will depend upon the type of complaint and whether we have received other similar complaints.

Types of high risk complaints we do investigate

The type of issues that would require further investigation are:

  • food poisoning outbreaks with laboratory confirmation (affecting more than one person)
  • typhoid notification from the Health Protection Unit
  • allegations of pests infesting a food business (rats, mice and cockroaches only with physical sightings and/or other clear evidence e.g. mouse droppings)
  • foreign body complaints where the contaminant has caused actual physical injury or where there is a high likelihood that it could cause physical injury (e.g. glass in food, small pieces of metal in food). If possible, such items including all packaging and receipts should be delivered by the complainant to the food team for investigation.
  • unfit food for sale
  • food poisoning allegations where there is more than one victim identified and or in a risk group. For example, children under five years old, elderly, sick, impaired immune system or if the victim is an open food handler, as long as they are willing to submit faecal specimen
  • complaints concerning food sold past the "use-by" date (as long as the food is identified)
  • allegations of poor hygiene in a food business where there is a definite risk to public health. For example, where the allegation is of cross contamination, dirty condition of the business, undercooked food or poor personal hygiene by staff

We cannot carry out an investigation without the food to examine. We must have the packaging, so we can check the batch codes, dates and the company who made the product. We cannot get you a refund for your food or get involved in any compensation claims.

How to report a food safety or hygiene problem

To report a food safety or hygiene problem, contact the team at

Can I take private action against the company?

Your statutory rights are not affected should we take formal action. You may wish to consider withdrawing the complaint from the council and undertaking private legal action. Alternatively, you may take private action upon completion of our investigation, if appropriate.


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