USDA Launches Toll-Free Help Line For Small Processors

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (“FSIS”) has announced the creation of a new help-desk, providing operators of small meat, poultry and egg processing establishments with access to knowledgeable specialists who can help them understand USDA directives, regulations and other information. The help-desk also will provide direct assistance to state and local food regulatory agencies.

"The FSIS is committed to providing assistance to businesses of all sizes that provide American consumers with access to a safe and healthy food supply," said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold R. Mande. "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 labeled."

The new help-desk will support USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative by helping small processors to reduce the time and expense of dealing with agency requirements. "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" is designed to continue the national conversation about developing local and regional food systems and finding ways to support small and mid-sized producers. It emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers, building on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides additional flexibility for USDA programs to promote local foods. More information on the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative can be found at: www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer.

The FSIS small plant help-desk will serve as a "one-stop shop" for plant owners and operators with questions. More than 90% of the 6,000 plants inspected by FSIS are small or very small. FSIS staff will assess callers' requests and provide information and guidance materials that best meet their needs. In situations where the answer is not readily available, the staff will research the issue and follow-up with the caller. As appropriate, the help-desk will provide a portal to other services, such as AskFSIS, FSIS' existing service offering agency responses to inquiries 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 through Friday, excluding Federal holidays. To speak to a staff specialist during this time, call 1-877-FSISHelp (1-877-374-7435). You may also contact the help-desk by email at InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.

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