Report unsafe or harmful food

If you think a restaurant, shop or other business is supplying food that is unsafe or harmful to human health, or isn't following food hygiene standards, you can report it to us so we can investigate.

We investigate complaints based on the risk to public health. Our level of investigation will be based on:

  • the nature of the complaint
  • the risk posed to health
  • the overall context of the total production
  • supply and sale of food in the UK
  • previous knowledge of similar complaints
  • the professional judgement of the investigating officer.

We cannot get you a refund for your food or get involved in compensation claims. If you are already in contact with the retailer or manufacturer about your problem, we cannot get involved.

The council can only investigate complaints about food bought from businesses within Royal Greenwich that:

  • isn't safe to eat or makes you ill
  • contains a foreign object such as a fragment of glass or metal
  • has false descriptions, is wrongly labelled or has misleading claims
  • is being sold after a 'use by' date.

Many companies have robust customer complaints policies and this means there is limited benefit in us investigating some types of complaints. For less complicated issues, you may get a more satisfactory response if you contact the shop or manufacturer directly. Examples of these include:

  • products bought from a large retailer or restaurant chain
  • food beyond its 'best before' date
  • poor quality food, such as over-ripe or damaged fruit and vegetables
  • something being on/in the food which comes naturally from the product itself or its surrounding environment - for example bones in meat and fish, insects on or in fruit and vegetables.

How to report

Contact the Food Safety Team at

Depending on the nature of the complaint, an officer may contact you for futher information or send you a food incident form. To complete the form, you will need to provide information such as:

  • where and when you purchased the food
  • the details of the product (including the wrapper and packaging as these contain important production details - we are unlikely to be able to investigate without these).

If possible, leave any foreign object found in the food where it was found or keep it safe if you have taken it out. Where possible, keep the food in the fridge or freezer, making sure it's wrapped and kept separate from other food. 

What happens next

We will make an initial assessment and may ask you to drop the food into our offices or come to collect the food.

Once you have passed your food complaint to us, we cannot return it to you and it becomes the property of the Royal Borough of Greenwich for us to investigate as we feel is appropriate.  

We may take one or more of the following actions to investigate a complaint:

  • contact the business to let them know we have had a complaint and check on their standards the next time we routinely inspect the premises
  • ask the business to supply details of any previous complaints and any relevant internal procedures
  • pay an unannounced visit to the food business
  • contact another Local Authority for information
  • send off samples for analysis but this is rare and depends upon the circumstances of the case.

Investigations can be lengthy and time consuming so it may take a while to hear from us. 

Following completion of the investigation, the officer will contact you to update you on any significant findings.   

Due diligence defence

We are required to consider any legal defences that may be available to the food business before taking legal action, including the ‘due diligence’ defence.  If the food business can demonstrate that it has taken all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence, it will be able to rely on this legal defence, even if the food was unsatisfactory when it was sold to you.

In these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to take formal action. However, if the business is unable to demonstrate that it took reasonable precautions to prevent the complaint, we may take legal action in line with our enforcement policy.

More information

You can find further information on some food concerns in our downloadable leaflets.