USDA’S FSIS issues best practices guideline in response to customer complaints

USA – Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a best practices guideline to help the meat and poultry industry respond to customer complaints related to adulterated or misbranded products.

The guidance reinforces the need for the industry to clearly respond to customer complaints of foreign materials in meat and poultry.

Incidents of foreign material in the products are required to be reported to the agency within 24 hours once the determination has been made that the product is adulterated.

FSIS decried that while the 24-hour reporting has been in place since 2012, recalls associated with foreign materials in product increased in recent years.

To handle the increasing concerns, the agency has intensified efforts in creating industry awareness and hosted meetings to discuss an industry-drafted document of best practices for responding to foreign material customer complaints.

The new guideline provides reference material on best practices and recommendations on how to receive, investigate and process customer complaints.

Once adulteration is identified, an establishment is required to recall adulterated product from commerce, the establishment must identify the cause of the product adulteration and take steps to prevent recurrence in its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which federal inspectors review.

“The guideline reflects the agency’s current position, and FSIS encourages the industry to begin using it now. 

FSIS welcomes public comments on the guideline. The agency will accept comments for 60 days and will then update the document in response to suggestions, if necessary,” said FSIS.

Last year, FSIS stepped up its emphasis on handling products containing foreign materials, identifying that products are considered adulterated even when the foreign material does not present a food safety risk.

Common recalls regarding foreign material in the food industry include raw ground pork patties, chicken nuggets, frozen pork, deli ham products, ground beef chubs, and breaded chicken products.

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