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Make a food complaint

False complaints

It is a criminal offence to make false complaints about food. St Helens Borough Council will report false complaints to the police.


Please note: For any food complainant we can only investigate the public health risk and cannot get a refund for your food or seek compensation on your behalf. If you want to claim compensation, we recommend you seek legal advice or contact Citizens Advice.

If you are wanting a refund you may be able to:

  • return the food to the shop, speak to the manager, and ask if you can have a refund.
  • contact the manufacturer and ask them to investigate - their contact details should be on the packaging, they may offer you a refund.

Making a complaint

If your food complaint presents a serious health risk and meets the above criteria, you should:

  • Keep possession of the food.
  • Keep any receipts, labels, and packaging materials.
  • Try to preserve the food or drink in its original condition.
  • Store perishable foods in the chiller or freezer until you can bring it into us, or we can collect it from you.
  • If you do keep any food complaint in the fridge, make sure it cannot contaminate any other foods.
  • Email Environmental Health.

Environmental Health does not investigate anonymous complaints.

What happens next?

We will get in touch with you to obtain further information if we believe we have grounds to investigate based on the public health risk. If any legal action is taken, you may need to give a witness statement and provide evidence in court.

What we can and can't investigate

We will investigate (dependent on public health risk):

  • Food hygiene in food premises (e.g. dirty conditions, unhygienic food handling by staff etc.)
  • Food that may be linked to confirmed food poisoning or has become contaminated.
  • Food that is unfit and forms part of a larger batch or consignment.
  • Food containing foreign bodies that has caused injury or has the potential to cause injury to a person e.g. glass or metal.
  • Food that is unfit for human consumption.
  • Purchased food that has expired its 'use by' date.
  • An allergen-free meal that has been requested but has caused an allergic reaction.

We will not investigate:

  • Food purchased or manufactured outside the district of St Helens Borough Council.
  • Any claims for compensation or refunds. This is a matter between the purchaser and the manufacturer.
  • Complaints about food quality e.g. over-ripe vegetables and fruits.

It is not illegal to sell food after its 'best before' date. 'Best before' relates to the taste, texture and quality of a product. After the best before date the food may not be as the manufacturer intended but will not be unfit for consumption.

Will I get compensation?

The Environmental Health department cannot act on your behalf to claim compensation or deal with customer service complaints. If you wish to pursue compensation, you may want to seek advice from a solicitor.

You can deal with food complaints yourself by reporting them to the shop that sold you the food, or to the manufacturer (contact details can be found on the food packaging). They will often carry out similar investigations to a local authority for their own quality and safety assurance procedures and they may compensate you.