DIRTY finger nails, a chicken's head, live insects and a human tooth were among the nasty surprises consumers encountered in their food last year.
There was a 12pc surge in complaints about dodgy food and poor hygiene to a Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) helpline in 2013.
A total 2,846 consumers complained about food and food premises, while there were another 10,429 queries relating to issues such as food labelling, legislation and the legal requirements for starting a food business.
Contamination of food with foreign objects was a frequent cause of complaints.
These included food contaminated with plastic, metal and glass fragments as well as a range of other items.
Consumers complained about meat in a chocolate yogurt, a dirty finger nail in baby food, a chicken's head in frozen chicken wings and a screw in a pasta dish.
Other nasty surprises facing diners included glass in a ready meal, live insects in a packet of dates and a human tooth in a Chinese takeaway.
Overall 1,190 complaints related to unfit food, there were 566 complaints about suspect food poisoning, 587 complaints on hygiene standards and 192 on incorrect information on food labels.
The FSAI said all complaints had been followed up by environmental health officers throughout the country, and some would have led to enforcement action being taken against premises where a food safety problem was confirmed.
It also received 267 queries regarding an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to imported frozen berries which had resulted in the FSAI advising consumers to boil any such berries before consumption.
However, just 33 calls to the helpline related to horse meat despite the major public scandal regarding it being mislabelled as beef. There was also a 20pc increase in requests for information on food labelling.
FSAI information manager Edel Smyth said that the significantly increased number of contacts from businesses and consumers this year was a positive development.
"On one hand, more food businesses are contacting us seeking to raise their food safety standards while, on the other, consumers are increasingly vigilant and aware of the need to report bad practices or experiences they've had where food safety has been compromised," she said.
"We continue to encourage anyone who has had a bad experience in relation to poor hygiene or food safety standards to report the matter to us so that the issue can be investigated directly," she added.