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Filing Complaints

Last modified: 8/7/2013 9:48 AM

How to File a Complaint

Did you find a cockroach in your favorite restaurant? Is your apartment swimming pool green and cloudy? Do you have a mosquito problem in your neighborhood? Have you come across an abandoned hazardous materials container?

These are just a few examples of the many complaints dealt with by our environmental health professionals every year.

To file a complaint with the Hazardous Materials Compliance Division (HMCD) call 408-918-3400.

To file a complaint with the Vector Control District (VCD)
call 408-918-4770.

To file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division (CDP)
call 408-918-3400 or read on.

What happens after I file a complaint?
An Environmental Health Specialist, Hazardous Materials Specialist or Vector Control Technician will make an unannounced visit to the facility. Any observations and health code violations will be documented in a report which is kept on file for two (2) years. These reports are public information and can be viewed at the appropriate DEH office. Remember: names, phone numbers, and addresses of complaining parties are kept confidential unless subpoenaed by a court of law.

What kind of complaints are handled by the Consumer Protection Division?

Food Safety:

  • We do investigate all complaints concerning retail food facilities. Retail food facilities are those places such as restaurants, bars, bakeries, and grocery stores that sell food and beverages directly to the consumer.
  • We do not investigate complaints which involve the manufacturing and distribution of foods and beverages that are sold at the wholesale level. All wholesale, canned and other prepackaged foods, especially those containing meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products are handled by the State of California or the federal Food and Drug Administration. For products produced in California, contact the California Department of Health Services Food and Drug Branch (FDB) Consumer Complaint Hotline at 1-800-495-3232. For products produced outside of California, contact the federal Food and Drug Administration at 510-337-6837 or by FAX at 510-337-6837.  What exactly is a food safety complaint?

  • Was the restaurant or market dirty?
  • Do you think the food made you sick?
  • Did you observe employees handling food in a manner that was unsanitary or unsafe?

All of these could be legitimate food safety issues. DEH responds to close to 3,000 food safety complaints each year county wide. If you've experienced any of these situations, feel free to contact us! Our field specialists make routine, unannounced inspections at all food facilities a number of times each year, but we cannot be in every facility every day.

If you have a food poisoning complaint, please call our central office directly at 1-408-918-3400 between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Due to the nature and complexity of our questions, we are unable to take this type of complaint over the Internet. When calling in a food poisoning complaint, please be prepared to provide us with the following information:

  1. The name and address of the food facility.
  2. Your name and phone number as well as the names of others who ate with you.
  3. A count of those people with you who became ill and those who were not ill.
  4. Information about your illness: the time you ate; the time you became ill; the symptoms you experienced; and the length of time your illness lasted.
  5. List all the food and beverages that you and each person with you consumed.
  6. Whether you saw a physician and if you have any lab results.

An Environmental Health Specialist will make an investigation of your complaint and you will be notified by mail of the results.

What isn't a food safety complaint?

  1. Were you unhappy with the service you received?
  2. Did you feel "ripped off" or that you didn't get your money's worth?

Complaints of this nature rarely have an impact on food safety and should be directed to the food facility manager, owner, or corporate office.

We investigate all complaints concerning facilities under permit with our Department and other environmental health issues within our legal jurisdiction.

Our support staff will download complaints submitted on-line once each day. An investigation of your complaint will be made within 10 working days and, if requested, you will be contacted with the results of our investigation by telephone. The names, phone numbers, and addresses of complaining parties are kept confidential unless subpoenaed by the court.

Garbage and Trash:

  • We do handle garbage complaints in all restaurants and in residential or commercial lots in the unincorporated areas of the county.
  • We do not investigate garbage complaints in residential or commercial lots within city limits. These complaints are referred to the appropriate city code enforcement department.

    You can file your complaint about garbage at restaurants or in unincorporated areas of the county by phone or e-mail.

Schools:

  • We do make inspections of school cafeterias and swimming pools.
  • We do not conduct inspections of classrooms or student rest rooms. These complaints are referred to the appropriate school district.

    You can file your complaint about a school cafeteria or swimming pool by phone or e-mail.

Sewage Overflow:

  • We do respond to sewage overflow complaints in unincorporated areas of the county and from properties with septic tanks or seepage pits.
  • We do not investigate sewage overflow complaints in areas connected to sanitary sewers. These complaints are referred to the local city public works or code enforcement.

    You can file your septic tank overflow complaints with us by phone or e-mail.

Mobile Home and RV Parks:

  • We do make inspections of all mobile home park swimming pools and spas.
  • We do not inspect mobile home parks for building health and safety. These inquiries are referred to the State of California. For inquiries in the city of San Jose, call 1-800-952-5275. For other cities, call 1-916-255-2501.

    You can file your complaint about mobile home and R.V. park pools and spas by phone or e-mail.

Apartments and Residences:

  • We do inspect apartment and community association swimming pools and spas.
  • We do not make housing inspections or enforce building codes for apartments or private residences. Within city limits contact the appropriate city code enforcement department. Within the unincorporated areas of the county, contact the County Building Department at 408-299-2351.

    You can file your complaint about apartment and association pools and spas by phone or e-mail.

Swimming Pools & Spas:

  • We do inspect all swimming pools and spas at apartments, condos, hotels and motels, health clubs, schools, community associations, commercial buildings, trailer and mobile home parks, clubs, campgrounds, and water theme parks.
  • We do not inspect private pools or spas maintained by individuals for the use of family and friends.

    You can file your complaint about public pools and spas by phone or e-mail.

For other complaints or questions you may have about DEH services, please call us at 408-918-3400 between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday.