Chelmsford City Council

Complain about food you have bought

We investigate complaints about food that:

  • may have caused food poisoning
  • is contaminated with foreign objects like glass and hair, or with chemicals
  • is unfit to eat
  • was sold past its ‘use by’ date


Food complaints we do not investigate

Trading Standards at Essex County Council deal with complaints about:

  • the quality of food, if it’s not harmful
  • food labelling or inaccurate descriptions of food 
  • allergens in food

Citizens Advice  take complaints on behalf of Trading Standards. You can speak to Citizens Advice  if you have a complaint about food quality or labelling.

We also don't take complaint about:

  • naturally occurring by-products, such as struvite crystals in tuna
  • burnt debris in cooked food
  • vegetable debris, such as stalks, in salads and frozen and tinned food 

You can visit the NHS website for advice about food safety at home.

You can contact us to complain about food you have bought.

To complain about food you have bought, you will need:

  • your name, address and contact details

  • when and where you bought the food, with the receipt if possible
  • what you did with the food, before you discovered the problem
  • the type of any packaging and its condition
  • who discovered the problem and how they discovered it
  • the problem with the food and how it’s affected you

If you think you have food poisoning, you will need to get this confirmed by a doctor.

We will advise you if you need to bring the food into us for inspection. You will need to:

  • keep the food in any original packaging, if possible
  • freeze the food before bringing it in if it’s perishable
  • leave any foreign objects in the food

Once we receive your food complaint, we will:

  • acknowledge your report within three working days

  • investigate and take the actions we need to

Our investigation may take several weeks. For some food complaints, we have to send food samples to a laboratory for analysis, and liaise with other local authorities and companies. We will not be able to return the food to you.

Not all investigations will result in prosecution of the food business or manufacturer, even if they have committed an offence.

If we prosecute the food business or manufacturer, you will have to make a statement and may have to attend court.

We can’t get you a refund or compensation from the food business or manufacturer, as that is a civil matter between you and the business.

You can speak to Citizens Advice  if you want more information about getting a refund.

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