Tip of the Week

How to protect your business in the event of an alleged food poisoning complaint.

Firstly, have a written procedure in place for dealing with a food poisoning complaint.

Inform your team of your procedures in dealing with such a complaint. It is important that all complaints are ALWAYS directed to, and dealt with by, the Duty Manager.

Ensure the Food Safety Guru Food Incident Form is easily accessible to record the details of any incident. By following the questions on the form, it will make sure you capture all relevant information to enable you to carry out a due diligence investigation.

Points included on the Food Incident Form include:-

  • Customers name and contact details
  • Date and time they dined with you/ordered food from you.
  • What food they ordered
  • Symptoms shown and duration
  • Did anyone they were dining with have the same symptoms? If so give details
  • What other food did they eat that day?
  • Have they visited the doctor?  If so, did they give a sample for testing? Please note that a customer does not need to visit a doctor as evidence they have had food poisoning. Samples are usually only taken if a person has been hospitalized or long term sick. A sample will likely identify the bacteria causing the illness making it easier to trace back to the likely source.

Let your customer know you take their issue seriously and you will undertake an investigation and will get back to them in 48 hrs/couple of days.

Your investigation must include –

  • Verifying (using till info) that the customer purchased this particular meal from your establishment
  • Has anyone else made a complaint?
  • Collect your food safety records and check everything is in order (fridge temperatures, core cooking temperatures, cooling temperatures, delivery schedules, cleaning schedules)
  • Check the history of all the components of the meal in question – was it all stored at the correct temperature; was the food in date; was the food cooked to correct temperature; if cooled, was it cooled within the correct time frame and then reheated to correct temperature?
  • Have any staff been off sick or been unwell?

Record all this information on the Food Incident Form. This will then be your record of due diligence if the incident is investigated by Environmental Health.

Send your completed Food Incident Form to us and we will advise on the next appropriate steps. Depending on the severity, you may need to alert the Environmental Health Inspector, but we will advise you on this.​


Be polite. Be professional. Investigate.  DO NOT ADMIT LIABILITY and speak with us before finalising your investigation.

Weekly Food Fact

Did you know that there are more than 1 million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year.  The main culprits are Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria.