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Page last updated on 14/11/2008
Common Food Complaints 

Discovering a foreign object in food is a very unpleasant experience. However, not all pose a serious health risk.

Here are some common food complaints together with a short explanation and suggestions for the best course of action.

Tinned Foods

Insects – occasionally small grubs may be discovered in canned vegetables inside the sweetcorn kernel or tomato and are impossible to see before they are processed. Although it isn’t pleasant to find a grub in your food, they are killed and sterilised by the canning process. As the use of pesticides decreases, these types of problem will increase.
Action: Contact the manufacturer -  No Public Health Risk

Wasps and fruit flies – these are naturally associated with fruit and so often found in tins of fruit. They do not carry disease.
Action: Contact the manufacturer -  No Public Health Risk

Struvite – some naturally occurring elements in fish may develop into hard crystals during the canning process. These crystals may be mistaken for glass fragments and are called Struvite. They are not harmful and will be broken down by stomach acid if swallowed. Struvite is especially common in tinned salmon and will dissolve if placed in vinegar and gently heated for up to 15-20 minutes (they may not dissolve completely in this time but will reduce in size). Glass will not dissolve.
Action: Heat gently in vinegar for 15-20 minutes. If sturvite contact manufacturer, if glass contact Food Safety Team. - No public Health Risk if Sturvite, Public Health Risk if glass.

Mould – dented, damaged or incorrectly processed tins may allow mould growth to occur. This could indicate an error in production or storage.
Action: Contact Food Safety Team - Possible Public Health Risk


Codworm – white fish such as cod or haddock may be infested with a small, round brownish/yellow worm found in the flesh. They are killed by cooking and are harmless to humans. The affected parts of the fish are usually cut away, but some may be missed.
Action: Contact retailer or supplier - No Public Health Risk

Meat and Poultry
Skin, bone etc – products made from meat and or poultry may contain small bones, skin or parts of blood vessels. These are unsightly but rarely a health hazard as they are normal parts of the original animal. They may sometimes cause problems such as a chipped tooth and these are best dealt with by the individual – via the Civil Court if necessary.
Action: Contact the retailer or manufacturer - No Public Health Risk

Note: It is very rare that prohibited parts of an animal eg genitals, eyes, eye-lids etc OR non-food animals eg cats and dogs be used for human food. Meat such as chicken or lamb is easily available and relatively inexpensive so that the use of prohibited parts or species is not economic.


Fruit and vegetables

Stones, soil and slugs – fruit and vegetables commonly have soil, stones or small slugs adhering to them. This is quite normal as they originate from soil.
Action: Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating - No Public Health Risk

Greenfly – salad vegetables, especially lettuce may have greenfly attached. This is becoming more common as the use of pesticides decreases, but they are not harmful.
Action: Wash all salad items thoroughly - No Public Health Risk

Note: mould growth will naturally occur when fruit and vegetables become bruised or damaged. This will be minimised if the buyer checks the produce before purchase and handles it carefully afterwards.

Bakery Goods

Bakery Char – Bread and cakes may contain bits of overcooked dough which has flaked off bakery tins. It does not necessarily indicate poor hygiene although they may be mistaken for rodent droppings which are black and regular torpedo shaped, whilst bakery char is greyish and uneven in shape.
Action: Contact manufacturer or if in doubt, the Food Safety Team - No Public Health Risk

Carbonised Grease – The machinery used to produce bread and cakes is lubricated with a non-toxic vegetable oil. Occasionally, some of this may become incorporated into the dough giving the product a grey/greasy appearance.
Action: Contact manufacturer - No Public Health Risk


Dried Foods

Insects – dried products such as flour, sugar and pulses may contain small insects such as psocids (book lice). These do not carry disease, but they are unsightly and can eat through paper of the packet. They breed very quickly in warm, humid conditions and so spread into uncontaminated food very quickly. 

Action: Throw away all affected food, clean cupboards with bleach solution    (follow advice on bottle) and dry thoroughly. Store new dried foods in airtight containers. Ensure good ventilation in kitchen/store cupboards and if you wish contact the Food Safety Team for advice. - No Public Health Risk.


Bloom – chocolate may develop a light coloured bloom if stored at too high a temperature. It is not mould but is due to fat separation and is not harmful.
Action: Return to retailer - No Public Health Risk

Sugar Crystals – large sugar crystals may form in confectionery and may be mistaken for glass. The crystals will dissolve in warm water.
Action: Test with warm water, contact Food Safety Team if crystals do not dissolve - No Public Health Risk if sugar crystals, Public Health Risk if glass


Please note that the Food Safety Team does not get involved with compensation issues.