Food safety complaints increase over Christmas

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Complaints rise: December 2018 saw a boost in customers complaining about food safety issues compared to an average month
Complaints rise: December 2018 saw a boost in customers complaining about food safety issues compared to an average month

Related tags Food Christmas

Complaints about food safety issues at out-of-home venues increase by more than half during the festive period.

The busy run-up to Christmas means pub operators are more likely to run the risk of falling behind on food safety procedures, according to food health and safety consultancy Food Alert.

There was a 55% increase in the number of food complaints the specialist was asked to investigate during December 2018, compared to those in an average month. 

Customers claiming they had got food poisoning from eating out was the most common type of complaint, with 79% of enquiries being this kind. 

Other complaints were reports of undesirable objects found in food, known as foreign bodies (13%) and allergic reactions (8%). 

The Christmas period brings an increase in temporary staff and bulk cooking of menu items that can make it more likely policies are not followed, the company said.

Enormous consequences 

It said customers were also more lax with their diets during special occasions and their lack of inhibitions may leave them open to potential for allergic reasons. 

The two most common dishes complained about over the festive period were calamari and chicken liver parfait.  

The consultancy said operators needed to communicate food procedures correctly to any new staff and ensure regulations were followed even on hectic nights.

Food Alert managing director David Bashford said: “While Christmas is a critically important trading opportunity for operators, it can also pose a risk from a food safety perspective. 

“Maintaining standards during the Christmas rush is difficult and all it takes is one minor mistake and the consequences can be enormous.” 

Communication crucial 

Bashford said communication between operators and staff, in addition to customers, was key.

He added: “How operators deal with issues and complaints is vital to keeping reputations intact and having watertight processes, training and supporting evidence trails in place are all absolutely crucial.

“Identifying high-risk food processes and ingredients, and formally conveying them to all employees, including temporary staff, is just one step that will help mitigate the number of incidents to ensure the lucrative festive period is a Christmas cracker for everyone.”

A spokesperson for the Food Standards Authority (FSA) said pubs could use resources on its website to ensure they followed food regulations correctly.

They said: “It is a food business's responsibility to make sure that the food they serve is safe and that they comply with food hygiene law at all times, including the festive period. For more information on food safety management procedures we advise reading our ‘safer food better business’ packs​.”

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