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Last updated: 08.08.17

Concerned about the safety of your food? The importance of raising concerns

Complaining about your food and raising food safety concerns isn’t the most ideal scenario when it comes to dining out, but making sure you do is crucial in preventing foodborne illnesses.

Unfortunately, we’ve all been faced with the dilemma of being served low-quality and questionable food when dining out. However not knowing whether our concerns are valid often leaves us feeling uncomfortable about complaining to a member of staff. Often visiting restaurants is a treat so the last thing we want is to experience unsafe food that could lead to food poisoning or other illnesses.

The typical English culture tells us to be polite to each other. Even when we are completely dissatisfied with the food we have been served and it doesn’t look appetising in the slightest, when the waiting staff asks “is everything okay with your meal”, the majority of the time our answer without hesitation is “yes, it’s lovely, thank you”.

But why do we do this? Naturally, as humans, we don’t like confrontation and if possible we will avoid it. However, failing to take action against food that could be unsafe to eat can be harmful for yourself and others. If the food looks unsafe, or if you have any concerns whatsoever, as a customer you have a right to speak up. By doing so, customers can play a part in fighting against foodborne illnesses.

Know your stuff

You can feel more comfortable about challenging staff if you know your stuff and are aware of the food safety laws that restaurants and other establishments serving food, must follow. Firstly, food and ingredients must come from a safe source and be kept at safe cold or hot holding temperatures.

When it comes to cooking, all food - especially meats, poultry and pork - must be cooked properly at the right temperature. It must also be handled correctly to avoid cross contamination and food handlers must ensure they comply with effective hand-washing techniques.

If you would like to speak to someone high up within the restaurant you are eating in, there will be someone in charge of safety and it is required by law that for at least one person within the food business to have a Food Safety Manager Certification. This is the person who you should ask to speak with.

How to speak up

Even if the slightest detail of your meal doesn’t look right, you should ask to speak with the restaurant manager. This is something that you don't need to feel uncomfortable about as the safety of your food is extremely important. Simply introduce yourself to the manager and explain what it is you are concerned about. It is crucial that you do this before eating any of the food you suspect may be unsafe.

Customers must remember that the point of voicing concerns is not intended to insult or humiliate anyone but instead to encourage the establishment to take the safety of their customers more seriously by promoting good food safety culture.

Key questions to ask

Any business that sells food must be inspected on a regular basis, so a question you could ask is when the most recent food safety inspection was and what score they received.

It is required by law that restaurants have a food safety system in place that is followed every day. This will include food handling rules, HACCP procedures, process flow diagrams and other materials, so a key question to ask the restaurant manager is whether or not they have a food safety system in place, and what it is. You can also ask what their policy is about who supplies them with food, as this is intended to ensure that food is safe.


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