Making a complaint about a business

Planning advice and guidance

Making a complaint about the safety of a workplace

The enforcement of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (HSWA) 1974 is split between the Council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) depending on the type of work activity.

The Council enforces the HSWA in offices, shops, warehouses, hotel and catering premises, customer service activities, places used for consumer / leisure activities and other non-industrial premises. The Health and Safety Executive deal with construction & building sites, factories and other manufacturing / industrial operations.

Report it online - If you have a complaint about the health and safety standards at your workplace or a place you have visited which is enforced by the Council.

Alternatively contact the HSE if the business is enforced by them: Reporting a workplace health and safety problem.

Making a complaint about a food business

Who should I complain to?

1. The shop, manufacturer or supplier

It would be appropriate to complain direct to the shop or manufacturer in the following circumstances:

  • The complaint is not of a serious nature, e.g. a part of a pea pod in a can of peas, or a "flat" carbonated drink.
  • Although you are not satisfied with the product, you are not unduly concerned about it and merely want your money back.
  • You are not certain when you purchased the product or you are not sure where and how you stored it.

2.  Trading Standards

Trading Standards deal with:

  • Chemical contamination of food and improper use of additives
  • Composition of food e.g. sausages must contain a minimum percentage of meat
  • Adulteration of food
  • Labelling offences, and misleading claims
  • Quality and nature of food e.g. Cod sold as Haddock

3.  Environmental Health

Environmental Health deal with:

  • Unfit food, e.g. decomposing meat, suspected food poisonings
  • Food that is so contaminated that it could not reasonably be eaten, e.g. heavy mould growth on cheese.
  • Food which contains something which is not of the "substance" demanded, e.g. a bolt in a loaf of bread.

Appropriate complaints are usually those that have public health implications. For example:

  1. If the complaint is serious because it could give rise to injury or illness e.g. glass in food.
  2. If the food clearly contains something that should not be found in it e.g. a piece of metal in baby food.
  3. If the nature of the complaint indicates poor hygiene e.g. a hair embedded in the food.
  4. If it is known where and when the product was purchased and you are reasonably certain that you have stored and handled the food properly after purchase.

Complaints must be made to the Council that covers the area where the food was purchased.

Report a food safety issue

Do's and Don'ts when making a complaint


  • Keep receipts.
  • Keep the food wrapper and any other packaging.
  • Keep perishable food in the fridge or freezer (especially if your complaint involves decomposition or "off" smells and tastes).
  • Read the label for 'best before' and 'use by' dates, and instructions for use. If you use food that is out of date, or in a different manner to that required by the instructions, you can expect problems.
  • Contact us as soon as you can on discovering the complaint.


  • Be tempted to handle or pull out any "foreign object" found in the food - leave it in place.
  • Put the food in a place where further deterioration or contamination could take place.
  • Throw away any of the food associated with the complaint.

When the Environmental Health Officer has investigated the complaint they will decide whether legal proceedings are appropriate.

If proceedings are taken you will be asked to give a formal statement and may be required to appear in court. You will not obtain any compensation unless you pursue your own legal action after the case.

If the Environmental Health Officer decides that legal proceedings are not appropriate, for example, because there is not a good chain of evidence, or because the company have taken all the steps they can to ensure the incident cannot occur again, you may be asked if you are happy to allow your name and address to be released to the company so that they can make their own apologies to you and reimburse you.