Sharp glass in soup, live insects in rice and snails in a packet of spinach were just some of the complaints made to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland's (FSAI) Advice Line last year.
In total over 2,772 consumer complaints were handled by the service - 34% of which related to unfit food and 30% to poor hygiene standards.
The FSAI says while the overall number of complaints was a drop on 2019, this is largely due to the impact of COVID-19 - with many food service businesses closed for long periods.
It says contamination of food with foreign objects was frequently reported.
These included allegations of hair being present in a number of foods, sharp glass in soup and fried noodles, live insects crawling through rice, snails in a packet of spinach and a bag of frozen mixed fruits.
Small pieces of stone, moths and rodent droppings were also reported last year.
There were also other complaints over poor hygiene standards in food premises, reported live mice and evidence of rodent activity in a café, a staff's lack of personal hygiene, handling cash and then food without washing hands and the smell of sewage in food premises.
Consumer complaints ranged from reports of food unfit to eat to non-display of allergen information:
- 937 complaints on unfit food
- 823 complaints on hygiene standards
- 429 complaints on suspect food poisoning
- 100 complaints on incorrect information on food labelling
- 78 complaints on non-display of allergen information
- 34 complaints on advertising
- 371 'other' (i.e. unregistered food businesses, COVID-19 restrictions)
During 2020, there were 7,767 queries from people working in the food service sector, manufacturers, retailers distributors and others.
Some of the most popular queries were regarding legislation on food labelling requirements and food supplements - as well as information on Brexit and food business start-up information.
Dr Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the FSAI, says: "The consistently high number of complaints shows us that consumers are continuing to grow increasingly aware of their right to safe food, and also the food safety and hygiene standards which should be in place across all food businesses.
"We are urging food businesses to take advantage of the resources available on our website to ensure they are meeting their legal requirements".
The FSAI Advice Line - which is manned by trained advisors and food scientists - is open from 10.00am to 4.00pm weekdays at email@example.com, or through the 'make a complaint' section of the FSAI website.