USDA launches free advice service for small meat processors

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Under secretary of agriculture for food safety Food Fsis

Small meat and poultry processors in the United States can now get free expert advice on regulations thanks to the opening of a new Government advice service.

The Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced yesterday that its small plant help-desk will provide authoritative guidance for operators of small and very small meat, poultry and processed egg product facilities.

Operators can receive help on how to meet requirements laid down by the FSIS through direct access to “knowledgeable specialist staff”,​ said an agency statement.

The help-desk also will provide assistance to state and local food regulatory agencies, which work with the FSIS in keeping meat, poultry and egg products safe for consumers.

Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold R. Mande said: “USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is committed to providing assistance to businesses of all sizes that provide American consumers with access to a safe and healthy food supply.

"The small plant help-desk will help the development of small, local producers by offering a one-stop shop for questions about how to make sure their meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome and properly labelled."

One stop shop

The agency said the help-desk would serve as a ‘one-stop shop’​ for plant owners and operators with questions. An important factor behind its inauguration is that more than 90 per cent of the 6,000 plants inspected by FSIS are small or very small.

The agency explained its staff will assess callers' requests and provide information and guidance materials that best meet their needs. Where information is unavailable, staff will research the issue and follow-up with the caller. The helpdesk will also refer inquiries to other services such as AskFSIS, - the agency’s internet service offering official responses to queries on agency policy.

Inquiries can be made to the small plant help-desk by toll-free telephone or by email. The help-desk is open from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday, excluding Federal holidays. To speak to a staff specialist during this time, call 1-877-FSISHelp (1-877-374-7435).

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