How to respond to a food safety complaint

Food poisoning can be the result of various factors relating to food safety within the commercial kitchen. Mistakes such as not cooking or storing food properly or poor hygiene when handling ingredients can easily result in the spread of harmful bacteria such as Salmonella or E. Coli.

In the case of a food safety complaint from a patron, chefs should take the issue seriously to avoid future harm. Managers should take the following actions regardless of the severity or likelihood of the illness relating to the restaurant's fault. 

Acknowledge the complaint

Many kitchens often make the mistake of disregarding food safety complaints. While kitchens that lack a food safety process may lean towards avoiding complaints in hopes they will disappear, other well-established organisations may ignore grievances in disbelief.

It is always recommended to respond in an empathetic manner to complaints without appearing defensive. The best way to acknowledge the situation is to record the customer's statement, including details such as the date of dining, foods eaten and symptoms of the illness. It may also be ideal to suggest visiting a healthcare professional for treatment and sample analyses for severe cases. 

Explore the allegation 

To identify if the illness is likely a result of food poisoning, it is best to investigate the kitchen processes during the alleged period. Interviewing staff members who were handling food is the first step to identify if they are aware of any wrong doings. Next, assessing all relevant records may help pinpoint an issue with handling, storage, or cooking. Ideally, if the event was recent, taking samples of any remaining suspected food available can provide a definite conclusion. 

Report the Incident

When severe or multiple complaints are received, contacting the local council and authority is a responsible step. This may result in further kitchen assessment by an external health officer who may identify issues with processes that need to be updated. 

Food safety audit

To avoid future food safety incidents, obtaining a food audit for your business is a proactive step to mitigate against the risks of all food safety hazards and aim to become certified with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). A HACCP audit, organised through Fildes Food Safety, is designed to help businesses meet and surpass these standards.

Food safety complaints may seem challenging to respond to, but they provide an excellent opportunity to assess the food safety processes within your kitchen regardless of the outcome. Better yet, avoid the risk altogether and improve your practices with a HACCP audit organised through Fildes Food Safety.

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