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Concerns about food safety and premises hygiene

Environmental health will investigate concerns regarding food safety whether that be from food and drink which has been purchased or consumed, or the premises selling food.

Whilst the vast majority of food and drink we consume is produced safely there are times when things go wrong.

Our involvement and response will vary dependant on the nature of the concern. Once we have received notification of your concern it is unlikely we will contact you again unless we need further information or assistance from you. However, we will not investigate anonymous concerns as we need to know there is some credibility to the information provided. Our investigation will consider whether there is a risk to food safety, and if so we will take appropriate action to ensure the food business operator and staff address any problems identified.

The following information will hopefully help you if you need to make us aware of any concerns you have with the safety of food sold within West Lothian.

Concerns about food premises hygiene standards

If you have visited a food business in West Lothian and were concerned by poor standards of cleanliness, or other hygiene matters you should contact us. The type of response provided will be dependent on the nature of the concern. Sometimes we will just record lower priority concerns for consideration during future visits rather than carry out an immediate visit. We tend to prioritise our response to concerns where there is serious risk of food contamination in food handling and preparation areas.

Contaminated food and drink

If you are supplied with or purchase food and drink which is contaminated e.g. foreign body, bad smell, or taste, then you should contact us. We will need to have any of the food which you still have, including any packaging, proof or purchase (receipt), and information regarding where and when purchase took place, and discovery of the concern occurred.

Sometimes further testing of food is required to identify the nature of the problem, and where the contamination occurred. This can involve lab tests being carried out, and also involvement of other local authorities in the investigation of the concern. This can mean that some investigations can take a long time.

Whilst many people would simply return the product to the retailer for a refund, notification of concerns to environmental health can assist in identifying a wider problem with the safety or quality of a particular food or drink product. Our involvement will not prevent you pursuing any concerns you have with the supplier of the food (however we will not do this on your behalf).

Sometimes these concerns can result in formal legal action being taken against a business. This may require you to be involved in providing legal statements, and being cited as a witness if the case is taken to court.

Food or drink causing illness

If you are concerned that food or drink you have purchased from premises in West Lothian has made you ill you should be aware of the following.

We tend not to investigate single cases of alleged illness from food businesses, or food and drink products (unless lab tests confirm a problem). There are many factors which could have contributed to your illness in terms of the food and drink consumed. Many people will assume that it is the food they have eaten outside the home, or produced by someone else which has made them ill. However, if we receive a number of similar notifications from others then this makes a link to a particular premises or food or drink product more of a concern.

Food poisoning and illness can only be confirmed by lab tests, and you should contact your GP to be tested to find out if you are infected. If you have any of the food or drink which you believe made you ill we can arrange for that to be tested. If you are tested and confirmed with food poisoning you will be contacted by us to get further information from you.

If we receive a number of notifications (2 or more) regarding a particular food business we will investigate any possible causes of illness, and deal with any food safety concerns we identify as a result.

If we identify that you have become ill from food that is part of a wider outbreak or public health concern we may be required to take formal legal action against the business or individual responsible. This may require you to be involved in providing legal statements, and being cited as a witness if the case is taken to court.

Food being mislabelled or incorrectly advertised

It is against the law to provide false or misleading information about food and drink being sold. It is also against the law not to provide certain important information for consumers regarding food and drink which is being sold.

Very often food or drink is labelled or described falsely to gain financial advantage e.g. cheaper, poorer quality foods being passed off as more expensive and higher quality. In some cases officers can visit and discover evidence of this taking place in a business, and in other cases lab tests require to be carried out to see if the food or drink is what it is claimed to be.

If you have any concerns regarding food and drink purchased in West Lothian you should contact us. Such concerns will tend to be noted against the premises, and will be considered by the next inspecting officer, or the premises highlighted for testing of the food or drink of concern as part of our sampling plan. More prompt investigations are likely if there are previous concerns or failures identified with the business.

Out of date food

There are 2 types of expiry date that are legally required - "use by" and "best before". It is a legal requirement to ensure that food which has a "use by" date is not sold after that date. It is not against the law to sell food beyond the "best before" date.

If you have concerns about a business in West Lothian selling out of date food you can let us know. Our normal procedure is to record the concern against the business and follow this up at the next routine inspection. More prompt visits will be carried out if there have been previous concerns or warnings given in relation to "use by" date foods being sold beyond their date.