A complaint about a live insect in a dessert and another about a deli worker sneezing into his hands and then making sandwiches were among more than 3,200 received by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland from the public last year.
Food fraud discoveries included wine that was sold as prosecco.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland Annual Report 2016 said its advice line received more than 1,120 complaints about unfit food, more than 860 about hygiene standards and more than 740 about suspected food poisoning.
There were also more than 220 complaints about incorrect information on food labelling and 60 about non-display of allergen information.
Complaints had increased by 17 per cent on 2015, according to the report, with food poisoning complaints up 45 per cent.
Contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported. Allegations included food contaminated with insects and glass, as well as other foreign objects.
A live insect was allegedly found in a packaged dessert, a long black hair was found in garlic sauce and a human nail was discovered in a takeaway meal. There was also glass found in a dessert, plastic rope in a takeaway meal, and a cigarette butt in a bag of chips.
Of the more than 860 complaints about poor hygiene standards, some referred to dirty customer toilets, others to rats seen on premises, some to dirty tables and floors and one case of a staff member at a deli sneezing into his hands and then preparing sandwiches without washing them.
The report said all complaints received by the authority were followed up and investigated by enforcement officers.
Professor Michael Gibney, chairman of the authority, said they welcomed the increase in complaints from consumers because food inspectors could not be in every food premises every day.
“Therefore, we rely on consumers to inform us if they have negative experiences when purchasing and/or consuming food,” he said.
Almost 370 enforcement notices were served on businesses last year by the authority, including for dirty premises, poor personal hygiene and pest control.
The authority’s annual report for 2016 shows 94 premises were subject to closures, and more than 260 were given improvement notices.
There were 34 investigations into food fraud, including stolen animals entering the food chain, sale of meat on social media from an unregistered source, mislabelling of meat and poultry, misleading sales of craft beers, and illegal description and sale of wine as Prosecco.
There were also 39 food alerts issued, the highest number in 10 years. They resulted in either product recalls or withdrawals from the Irish market due to the presence of a foreign body or pathogens. These included amphetamine-like substances in food supplements, plastic in confectionery, Salmonella in soups and Listeria monocytogenes in prepared food dishes, snacks and milk products.
Food allergen alerts were issued by the authority 28 times last year with milk, soybeans, eggs and nuts the most common allergens incorrectly labelled or declared in 2016.