Food safety and food poisoning
Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food.
If you think you have food poisoning, you should contact your family doctor (GP) for advice. If you do not have a doctor, you can find a GP in your area using the Health Service Executive (HSE) website.
This document explains what food poisoning is, what to do if you suspect you have eaten contaminated food, and how to make a formal complaint about food poisoning or an unsafe food premises.
What is food poisoning?
Food poisoning happens when you eat or drink contaminated food. The food may be contaminated by bacteria, or by chemicals called ‘toxins’. People with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to food poisoning than others.
Symptoms of food poisoning usually include:
- Stomach pains
You can find information on how to treat symptoms of food poisoning at home on the HSE website.
Read about how
to prevent food poisoning in the home, including how to:
- Store food safely in the fridge and freezer
- Prepare food safely
- Defrost frozen food correctly
- Maintain good kitchen hygiene
Unsafe or unsatisfactory food
Food is unsafe or unsatisfactory if it:
- Leads to vomiting, diarrhoea or stomach pains
- Contains a foreign object, such as glass, insects, or hair
- Is contaminated by chemicals, such as disinfectants or detergents
- Has a bad taste or smell
If you have eaten or bought food that is unsafe, you have the right to make a formal complaint.
You can also make a complaint if you are unhappy with the hygiene in a food premises, including a supermarket or restaurant.
If there is something wrong with food you have been served
When eating out
Do not accept a meal in a restaurant or café if you think it is unsatisfactory. Instead, you should send it back or ask for a fresh serving on a clean plate.
Remember that hot food must be served piping hot.
From a take-away
If you think there is something wrong with your take-away meal, do not eat it.
If you want to make a formal complaint, see How to make a complaint about food poisoning below.
You may also want to store the affected food in a sealed container in the fridge until it can be examined by the authorities. See Analysis of food samples below.
If there is something wrong with groceries you have purchased
Make a note of when and where you purchased the product.
You should also make a note of when you first opened the food, and when you first noticed there was a problem.
Do not remove any foreign objects, such as plastic or hair, from the product.
Keep all the relevant labels and packaging.
How to make a complaint about food poisoning
You can make a formal complaint about food poisoning by either contacting your local Environmental Health Officer or by contacting the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
Contact your local Environmental Health Officer
HSE Environmental Health Officers investigate food safety complaints.
If you think you have food poisoning, you should contact your local Environmental Health Officer with:
- The name and address of the restaurant or supermarket
- Your complaint – you should provide as much detail as possible
Contact the Food Safety Authority of Ireland
You can complete a complaint form on the FSAI website. This form is confidential and will not be shared with the restaurant or shop you are complaining about.
The FSAI will send your completed form to a HSE Environmental Health Officer who will then investigate your complaint.
You can also ring the FSAI on 0818 33 66 77.
Analysis of food samples
The Public Analyst Laboratory analyses food samples if there is a complaint.There is no charge for this if the complaint is submitted through the Environmental Health Service Offices. There is a fee for food sample analysis if you submit samples directly to the laboratory.