How to complain about food

The purpose of this guidance is to:

  • Explain what to do if you have a problem with food.
  • Explain how we can help you.
  • Outline the service you can expect from Breckland Council's Food and Health and Safety Team.

What should be done with food if a complaint is to be made?

  • Wrap and store perishable foods or chilled foods in the fridge (0°C to 5°C).
  • Store frozen foods in the freezer (-18°C).
  • Non-perishable foods should be wrapped and stored in a clean area.
  • Keep the food in its original packaging if possible and keep all packaging, labels and the receipt.
  • Handle the food as little as possible.

To whom can the complaint be made?

  • The owner or manager of the shop/restaurant where you bought the food.
  • Breckland Council's Food and Health and Safety team if you live in Breckland or bought the food in Breckland.
  • The Environmental Health Department of the council where the food was sold if outside Breckland Council.
  • Norfolk County Council's Trading Standards if your complaint relates to labelling or food quality.

What to do if there is a problem with food

If you decide to go back to the business that sold the food, always ask for an investigation and to be informed of the outcome. Most larger businesses will investigate the cause of the problem and refund the money if the food is returned with the receipt.

If you think the matter requires an independent investigation, please keep the food, packaging and receipt and contact us. If you no longer have the food or packaging, Breckland Council will not be able to fully investigate the cause of your complaint.

Trading Standards

Complaints about quality claims or labelling should be made to Norfolk County Council Trading Standards. 

What happens if a complaint is made to the Food and Health and Safety Team?

We will investigate the complaint for you. It may be referred to Trading Standards if the complaint is about labelling or a misleading claim. If the food is made outside of Breckland, we will consult the Environmental Health Department for that area to investigate the manufacturer and to see whether there have been any other problems.

Complaint to another council

The complaint will be passed to them by the Food and Health and Safety team if the food was purchased in another council's area.

How will the Food and Health and Safety team investigate a complaint?

When a food complaint is brought to us, we will ask the complainant several questions concerning the food, such as:

  • When was it purchased?
  • How was it stored?
  • When and how was the problem found?

We will ask you to sign a form giving full details. We will also ask if you are willing to give evidence in court if formal action is necessary and we will point out that, once the food is handed to us, it may not be possible to return it to you. The food may be sent for analysis or maybe forwarded to the Environmental Health Department where the food was manufactured to help the investigation.

The food will be examined by a qualified Food Safety Officer. If necessary it will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

We will then contact some or all of the following businesses for information:

  • Retailer
  • Carrier
  • Manufacturer
  • Producer
  • Packer
  • Importer

We will need to investigate the business' food safety management systems before we decide on the appropriate action.

We may also contact other local authorities to find out about the company concerned.

If the complaint is of national importance we will notify the Food Standards Agency.

The final decision

When we have obtained all the relevant facts we will decide whether formal or informal action is to be taken.

Our decision will also depend on:

  • The evidence and seriousness of the offence.
  • The complainant's willingness to give evidence in court.
  • If the business responsible for the problem has a 'due diligence' defence. This means that they can prove that they had taken all reasonable measures to prevent the problem arising.
  • If it is in the public interest to prosecute.

We will then notify you and the business concerned of our decision.

We will also require businesses to carry out improvements where appropriate to prevent similar complaints.


If you feel you should have compensation from the food business, Breckland Council cannot get involved. The business owner or manufacturer should be contacted directly by you.

Further information is available from Breckland Council:

Food, Health and Safety team,
Environmental Health,
Breckland Council,
Elizabeth House, Walpole Loke, Dereham, Norfolk NR19 1EE

Telephone: 01362 656870


Norfolk County Council County Hall,
Martineau Lane Norwich Norfolk,

Telephone: 0344 800 8013

Last updated: 04/05/2022 14:30:53