Common incidents and suggested actions

Discovering something wrong with your food can be an unpleasant experience; however, not all situations pose a serious health risk and some do not require the council to investigate. We have detailed some common food complaints with a short explanation and suggested course of action.

Quick links

You can use the below links to quickly navigate to the relevant category of food. 

If you are in doubt about what action you should take, please the details of the issue to envhealth@cheltenham.gov.uk and we can advise you. Please note that when we investigate food complaints, we cannot get involved with compensation issues.

Tinned foods

Foreign object Description Action
Insects Occasionally, small grubs may be discovered in canned vegetables especially sweetcorn and tomatoes.  The grubs are the larvae of a moth which live inside the sweetcorn kernel or tomato and are impossible to see before they are processed. Although it isn't pleasant to find a grub in your food, they are killed and sterilised by the canning process. As the use of pesticides decreases, these types of problem will increase.

Contact the manufacturer or supermarket. 

No public health risk.

Wasps and fruit flies These are naturally associated with fruit and so often found in tins of fruit. They do not carry disease.

Contact the manufacturer or supermarket. 

No public health risk.

Struvite Some naturally occurring elements in fish may develop into hard crystals during the canning process. These crystals may be mistaken for glass fragments and are called Struvite. They are not harmful and will be broken down by the stomach acid if swallowed. Struvite is especially common in tinned salmon and will dissolve if placed in vinegar and gently heated for up to 15-20 minutes (they may not dissolve completely in this time but will reduce in size). Glass will not dissolve.

Heat gently in vinegar for 15-20 minutes, if struvite contact the manufacturer, if glass, contact us.

No public health risk if struvite, if glass, please contact us.

Mould

Dented, damaged or incorrectly processed tins may allow mould growth to occur.  This could indicate an error in production or storage.

Contact us.

Possible public health risk.

Fish

Foreign object Description Action
Codworm

White fish such as cod or haddock may be infested with a small, round brownish/yellow worm found in the flesh. They are killed by cooking and are harmless to humans.  The affected parts of the fish are usually cut away, but some may be missed.

Contact the manufacturer or supermarket. 

No public health risk.

Meat and poultry

Foreign object Description Action
Skin, bone etc.

Products made from meat and/or poultry may contain small bones, skin or parts of blood vessels.  These are unsightly but rarely a health hazard as they are normal parts of the original animal.  They may sometimes cause problems such as a chipped tooth and these are best dealt with by the individual - via the Civil Court if necessary.

Note: It is very rare for prohibited parts of an animal e.g. genitals, eyes, eye-lids etc. or non food animals e.g. cats and dogs to be used for human food.  Meat such as chicken or lamb is easily available and relatively inexpensive so that the use of prohibited parts or species is not economic.

Contact the manufacturer or supermarket. 

No public health risk

Fruit and vegetables

Foreign object Description Action
Stones, soil and slugs

Fruit and vegetables commonly have soil, stones or small slugs adhering to them.  This is quite normal as they originate from the soil. 

Wash all salad items thoroughly.

No public health risk.

Bakery goods

Foreign object Description Action
Bakery char

Bread and cakes may contain bits of overcooked dough which has flaked off bakery tins.  It does not necessarily indicate poor hygiene although they may be mistaken for rodent droppings which are black and regular torpedo shaped, whilst bakery char is greyish and uneven in shape.

Contact manufacturer or if in doubt,contact us.

No public health risk.

Carbonised grease

The machinery used to produce bread and cakes is lubricated with a non-toxic vegetable oil.  Occasionally some of this may become incorporated into the dough giving the product a grey/greasy appearance.

Contact manufacturer.

No public health risk.

Dried foods

Foreign object Description Action
Insects

Dried products such as flour, sugar and pulses may contain small insects such as psocids (book lice).  These do not carry diseases, but they are unsightly and can eat through the paper of the packet.  They breed very quickly in warm, humid conditions and so spread into uncontaminated food very quickly.

 No public health risk.

Chocolate and confectionery

Foreign object Description Action
Bloom

Chocolate may develop a light coloured bloom if stored at too high a temperature.  It is not mould but due to fat separation and it is not harmful.

Return to retailer.

No public health risk.

Sugar crystals

Large sugar crystals may form in confectionery and may be mistaken for glass.  The crystals will dissolve in warm water.

No public health risk if sugar crystals, public health risk if glass, please contact us if so.