James Walker: You can’t dine out on a fly in your soup

Compensation for food hygiene gaffes is usually paltry
Compensation for food hygiene gaffes is usually paltry
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With fruit, vegetables, meat and fish often travelling thousands of miles to our plates, or hanging about in various warehouses awaiting delivery or preparation, it’s inevitable that some unwanted items might find their way into the food that we eat.

Aside from being gross, there’s potentially a real threat to our health with hygiene slip-ups. What’s more worrying is that by far the most common items found in food are wood, plastic and metal shards.

So what can you do when your food isn’t what it should be? First, you should always make a complaint just so the shop is aware that there’s been a significant problem. Photograph the item and receipt when you do this if you can and return it to the shop for investigation. If you’ve been injured or your health has been affected, get a doctor’s note and include this with your complaint.

If you find something unexpected (or disturbing) in your food then you can expect a written apology a refund and some compensation. However, don’t start booking that holiday or paying off the mortgage just yet. I’ve always been amazed by how stingy big businesses like supermarkets are when it comes to items that have clearly found their way into products they’ve sold. The norm seems to be a voucher around the £10 to £20 mark, though we have seen higher amounts where there’s some negative publicity in the media. Even then, it’s rarely over £100.

If you want to take things further, the options are limited. You can report a shop or restaurant to your local trading standards or environmental health officer. But this won’t help with your individual complaint. Ultimately, you’d have to take the business to court. I think there needs to be an ombudsman for shops, restaurants and food manufacturers – watch this space.

So keep an eye out when you’re tucking into your food. A wide range of beasties, creepy crawlies and other creatures – living or dead – can sometimes ship up in your shop-bought produce. If you spot something that shouldn’t be there, try to trap if humanely and get in touch with your local Environmental Health Department. And don’t forget to let me know.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint resolution service Resolver.co.uk