Food complaints

Find out who to contact for different types of complaints about food or food businesses and the investigation process.


Complaints are welcome

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) works with local councils to help ensure food for sale to consumers is safe, correctly labelled, and suitable for its intended use. If you have a concern about a food product or a food business you can make a complaint, or seek advice from MPI or a local council.

We welcome complaints from the public as they help us and councils better understand your concerns as well as raise awareness with the food industry about their responsibilities to consumers.

Types of food complaints

Complaints about food for sale can be investigated. Common types of complaints include:

  • foreign objects in food
  • suspected foodborne illness
  • food has incorrect or misleading labelling
  • food is being sold past its use-by date
  • undeclared allergens in the food
  • unlicensed sale or serving of food
  • unhygienic or incorrect food handling, storage, transport or preparation.

MPI or local councils may not be able to deal with complaints where:

  • they are not about food for sale
  • insufficient information is provided
  • there is no breach of the law
  • they are malicious.

To make a food complaint

If your complaint is about:

Contact:

Retail food businesses such as cafes, restaurants and takeaways

Call the council where the business is located.

  • MPI-registered businesses including food manufacturers, importers, dual operator butchers
  • A food recall
  • Other issues about food safety and labelling

Contact MPI by:

Reporting suspected foodborne illnesses

Foodborne illness – or food poisoning – is the name for illness caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or drink. Most is caused by harmful bacteria getting into food.

If you, your family or friends feel unwell, seek medical attention from a doctor (your GP). 

If you suspect the cause of an illness is connected with food that has been purchased and eaten you should first report this to a health protection officer at your District Health Board's Public Health Unit.

The Public Health Unit staff will assess the information and if there is evidence that the illness was caused by food, MPI will be notified.  All notifications are monitored and assessed and if appropriate investigated.  If there are complaints about the same type of food, food business or group of people who feel unwell MPI may investigate further.

MPI complaint process

Each complaint to MPI is logged and considered carefully. We will investigate as appropriate.

We give priority to:

  • situations that will, or have the potential to, cause serious harm
  • deceptive or fraudulent activity
  • patterns of similar incidents that suggest ongoing or broader issues.

Complaints investigated by other agencies

Some issues are investigated by other agencies even if they involve food. Some examples are in the table. 

Issue:

Contact:

Advertising standards

Advertising Standards Authority:

The Fair Trading Act and Commerce Act – for example, unsubstantiated representations including representations about organic and free range, or place of origin

Weights and measures

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment:

Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code – current provisions and requests to change

Food Standards Australia and NZ

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