Processing Magazine

USDA launches toll-free help desk for processors

December 10, 2009
In a press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture''s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the opening of its new small plant help-desk, which will provide for operators of small and very small meat, poultry and processed egg products establishments seeking help with agency requirements with direct access to knowledgeable staff specialists. The help-desk also will provide assistance to state and local food regulatory agencies – FSIS'' partners in keeping meat, poultry and egg products safe for consumers. 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 Internet service offering official 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). Customers may also contact the help-desk by email at InfoSource@fsis.usda.gov.