Foodstuff Information

Food Safety

Discovering a foreign object in food is a very unpleasant experience. However, not all pose a serious health risk. Here are some common food complaints together with a short explanation and suggestions for the best course of action.

Tinned Foods


Occasionally, small grubs may be discovered in canned vegetables especially sweetcorn and tomatoes. The grubs are the larvae of a moth that 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.

  • Advised Action:  Contact the manufacturer
  • Risk: No public health risk

Wasps and Fruit Flies

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

  • Advised Action: Action:  Contact the manufacturer
  • Risk: No public health risk


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 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.

  • Advised Action: Action:  Heat gently in vinegar for 15-20 minutes, if struvite contact the manufacturer, if glass contact the Food Safety Team.
  • Risk: No public health risk if struvite, is a public health risk if glass


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

  • Advised Action:  Contact Food Safety Team (Regulatory Team - Environmental Health)
  • Risk: Possible public health risk


Small grubs are often found in canned vegetables, particularly tomatoes and sweetcorn. Their colour is often cream to greenish brown with long dark and pale bands, but this is variable. They can be up to 4cm in length. People think they may be maggots or caterpillars. These are moth larvae that live inside the food, and are difficult to see during growing and processing. The larvae are killed and sterilised by the canning process so they are not a health risk. Every effort is made to control these pests while crops are growing. But you may find these larvae in food as the use of pesticides in food crops has decreased and there is an increase in the use of organic produce, where crops are not sprayed with any chemicals. 

  • Advised Action: Although unpleasant to finda grub in the food. You should contact the manufacturer
  • Risk:  No public health risk


Cod Worm – 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.

  • Advised Action: Action:  Contact retailer or supplier
  • Risk: No public health risk

Meat and Poultry

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.

  • Advised Action:Action:  Contact retailer/manufacturer
  • Risk: No public health risk

Note: It is very rare for prohibited parts of an animal eg. genitals, eyes, eye-lids etc OR non-food animals eg. 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.

Chicken Red leg

A natural pigment held within the bone being released after cooking and taking on the appearance of meat not being correctly cooked causes red leg in cooked chicken. The chicken will be thoroughly cooked but the temperature is not high enough to denature the pigment.

  • Advised Action: Ensure the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the juices are running clear
  • Risk:  No public health risk

Oregon Disease or Deep Pectoral Myopathy

This is a condition of Turkeys and Chickens (Broilers). It is caused by a reduction in blood supply to the deep pectoral muscles. The lesion is apple green, which is retained on cooking. The colour is not noticed until the bird is carved after cooking.

  • Advised Action:  Contact the retailer or manufacturer
  • Risk:  It is unsightly but there is no public health risk

Fruit and Vegetables

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 soil.

  • Advised Action: Wash all fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating
  • Risk: No public health risk


Salad vegetables, especially lettuce may have greenfly attached. This is becoming more common as the use of pesticides decreases, but they are not harmful.

  • Advised Action: Wash all salad items thoroughly
  • Risk: No public health risk

Note: Mould growth will naturally occur when fruit and vegetables become bruised or damaged. This will be minimised if the buyer checks the produce before purchase and handles it carefully afterwards.

Mushroom Fibers/Hair

Sometimes we get complaints about hairs in food such as pizza, often these 'hairs' turn out to be mushroom fibers. The mushroom that we know is actually the fruiting body of the hidden mushroom plant. This plant is made up of microscopic filaments (hyphae) which combine to form strands called mycelium. The mycelium grows in the soil on wood and leaves, or in commercial mushroom farming, compost. The mushroom body first develops as a tiny ball on the mycelium and grows to a certain size before being picked to eat. Sometimes, strands of mycelium can remain with the mushroom during preparation and cooking. When cooked, the fibrous mycelium can look like a coarse hair.

  • Advised Action: Contact the retailer or manufacturer
  • Risk: No public health risk

Bakery Goods

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 actually black and regular torpedo shaped, whilst bakery char is greyish and uneven in shape).

  • Advised Action: Contact manufacturer or if in doubt, the Food Safety Team
  • Risk: 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.

  • Advised Action: Contact manufacturer
  • Risk: No public health risk

Dried Foods


Dried products such as flour, sugar and pulses may rarely contain small insects such as psocids (book lice). These do not carry disease, 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.

  • Advised Action: Throw away all affected food, clean cupboards with bleach solution (follow advice on bottle) and dry thoroughly. Store new dried foods in airtight containers. Ensure good ventilation in kitchen/store cupboards and if you wish contact the Food Safety Team for advice.
  • Risk: No public health risk



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

  • Advised Action: Return to retailer
  • Risk: 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.

  • Advised Action: Test with warm water, contact Food Safety Team if crystals do not dissolve
  • Risk: No public health risk if sugar crystals, is a public health risk if glass