USDA FSIS Issues Best Practices Guideline for Customer Complaint Response

USDA FSIS Issues Best Practices Guideline for Customer Complaint Response

FSIS developed the document to address foreign material customer complaints, but it also can apply to other customer complaints.

Subscribe
March 11, 2019

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued a best practices guideline to help the meat and poultry industry respond to customer complaints that are determined to be associated with adulterated or misbranded meat and poultry products.

In 2012, FSIS announced a regulation requiring all establishments to report to the agency within 24 hours when they have shipped or received an adulterated product and that product is in commerce. This requirement has been in effect for several years, but recalls associated with foreign materials in product increased in recent years. When an establishment needs 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. While FSIS specifically developed the document to address foreign material customer complaints, establishments can apply the information to other customer complaints of adulterated or misbranded products in commerce.

“FSIS has placed renewed emphasis on industry responding to customer complaints of foreign materials in meat and poultry and, as required, reporting those incidents to the agency within 24 hours once the determination has been made that the product is adulterated,” said FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg. “We will continue to work with industry and offer guidance to assist them in complying with agency regulations.”

FSIS intensified efforts and made presentations in 2018 to industry explaining that product containing foreign materials is adulterated even when a physical food safety hazard is not present. Additionally, the agency hosted two industry meetings to discuss an industry-drafted document of best practices for responding to foreign material customer complaints, which was published in August 2018. FSIS began working on the guideline in mid-2018 to provide reference material on best practices and recommendations on how to receive, investigate and process customer complaints.

The guideline reflects the agency’s current position, and FSIS encourages the industry to begin using it now. FSIS welcomes public comments which will accept comments for 60 days and will then update the document in response to suggestions, if necessary. Comments may be submitted via the federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov; by mail including CD-ROMs sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Mailstop 3758, Room 6065, Washington, D.C., 20250-3700 or by hand-or courier-delivery to 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Room 6065, Washington, D.C., 20250-3700. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the agency name and docket number FSIS-2018-0034.

View or download the draft guideline at https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index/retail-guidance.