Food safety and eating out
When you eat out in Ireland, you enter into a consumer contract with the restaurant, café, pub or other food service provider. As a consumer you have certain rights. This document gives you information about your consumer rights when eating out.
What to expect when eating out
Before you eat in a restaurant, café or other food service premises, you are entitled to see the prices. Prices may be displayed on an individual menu or on a display such as a blackboard.
In addition to the food and drink prices, the price list should also include information on:
- A minimum charge (if applicable)
- A service charge (if applicable)
- A cover charge or any similar charge
Food safety and hygiene
When you eat out, you can expect high standards of food safety and hygiene.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) ensures that food that is consumed, distributed, marketed or produced in Ireland meets high standards of food safety and hygiene.
The FSAI is also responsible for ensuring that food sold in restaurants, cafés and other food premises meets legal requirements and follows codes of good practice for food hygiene.
How is food safety enforced?
The FSAI enforces food safety laws in Ireland through service contracts with official agencies, including the Health Service Executive (HSE).
An authorised officer, such as an Environmental Health Officer, will search and inspect the food premises. They may take samples of food and other material as part of their investigation.
If the authorised officer finds that a premises or a practice (such as food handling or preparation) is likely to be a risk to public health, they may give the owner an improvement notice. This includes:
- The cause of the risk to public health
- The remedial action that needs to be taken
- The time limit for the owner to take remedial action
If the owner does not carry out the improvements as recommended by the authorised officer, the FSAI or HSE may seek an improvement order from the District Court. An improvement order outlines what needs to be improved upon, and the timeframe within which the owner needs to do it.
If there is an immediate danger to public health, the authorised officer may issue a closure order. This means the owner must close the business until the issue has been resolved. A closure order may also be issued if an improvement order is not acted on. Closure and prohibition orders are listed on the FSAI website.
How to make a complaint
As a consumer, you have a right to safe food when you are eating out. Do not accept food if you find it is unfit to eat.
Food may be unfit to eat if it:
- Is not piping hot
- Smells ‘off’
- Appears to be contaminated with chemicals or detergents
- Is off-colour – for example, if chicken is pink in the centre
- Contains a foreign object such as hair or insects
Food may also be unfit to eat if it has been prepared in a place with poor hygiene standards. When eating out, you should check whether:
- The restaurant or café is visibly dirty
- Staff use dirty cloths to clean multiple surfaces
- Staff have dirty hands
- Staff handle food and money without wearing gloves or washing their hands in-between
If you are unhappy about the quality of food you have purchased, or if you are concerned about the cleanliness of a food premises, you can make a complaint.
Making a complaint
You should first complain to the person who is serving you. Next, you should speak to the manager on duty.
You may want to fill in the FSAI’s online complaint form. The information you give on this form is confidential and will not be shared with the food premises. Instead, it will usually be given to the local Environmental Health Office (EHO) who will then carry out an investigation.
If you think you have symptoms of food poisoning, you should contact your GP.
Make a note of:
- Where you bought the suspected food
- When you started to feel unwell
- Your symptoms
If your GP confirms that you have food poisoning, you should:
- Phone the FSAI on 0818 33 66 77, or
- Email the FSAI at email@example.com, or
- Contact your local Environmental Health Officer
You can call the FSAI on LoCall 0818 33 66 77 or (01) 8171300 for information and advice on a range of food safety issues.