Caterpillars, snails and false nails: all found in food in Ireland last year

Food Safety Authority handled 3,460 complaints in 2019, most due to poor food and hygiene standards

A snail in a chicken, a caterpillar in pork chops and a moth in fresh cream were among the complaints investigated by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) last year.

Hair was reported several times as being present in a number of foods, as well as false nails, stone, metal and plastic.

Complaints regarding poor hygiene standards in food premises included live mice and evidence of rodent activity throughout food handling and storage areas; staff failing to wash their hands when cooking and serving food; pigeons in the deli area; and flies noted throughout a premises.

The FSAI handled 3,460 complaints in 2019, with over half of those relating to unfit food and poor hygiene standards.


There was a spike of 25 per cent in people complaining about non-display of allergen information, a 19 per cent rise in complaints relating to poor hygiene standards and suspected food poisoning incidents were up by 8 per cent.

FSAI chief executive Dr Pamela Byrne said the volume of complaints from consumers regarding pest infestation has prompted the agency to add a "frequently asked questions" section for pest control to their website.

She warned that a failure to deal promptly with pests can cause lasting reputational damage to a food business.

“Pest control is critical because pests can carry harmful bacteria that can contaminate foods. This can cause illness or spoil food. Pests can also cause financial damage to food businesses and affect their reputation. This new webpage will act as a valuable resource for food businesses concerned about pests,” she said.

Allergen information

Consumers are becoming "increasingly attentive as to how food establishements are expected to operate in terms of food safety in Ireland, " she added.

“By reporting their incidents around hygiene, labelling, food safety practices and pest control, members of the public and people working in the food sector provide us with the information we need to do our work effectively.

“In 2019, we noticed a significant increase in complaints around incorrect allergen information, which continues to be a concern to us.

“The importance of food businesses having correct allergen information displayed cannot be underestimated, as failures in this area can have serious consequences for the health of some consumers. It is also a legal requirement.”

Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat, to non-display of allergen information. In total there were:

  • 1,134 complaints on hygiene standards
  • 1,082 complaints on unfit food
  • 792 complaints on suspect food poisoning
  • 149 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
  • 135 complaints on non-display of allergen information
  • 113 other complaints
Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times