Found a Problem With Your Food? There’s Now a USDA Online Complaint Form for That
You bite into a turkey sandwich and find a piece of plastic. Who do you call to report a complaint – the company’s toll-free number? The supermarket where you bought the product? Somebody else?
For products containing meat, poultry or processed eggs, it’s now as simple as going online and submitting a complaint form to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The agency recently announced the launch of its Electronic Consumer Complaint Form (ECCF) – a way for consumers to submit important information about food safety issues in real-time, giving FSIS the information it needs to begin its investigation potentially before a company even knows an issue has been reported.
This is where it could get tricky for food companies.
Not only is it possible that FSIS begins an investigation before you even know an ECCF is filed, but this new reporting system for USDA-regulated food items could also lead to more food safety complaints and subsequent recalls.
In the past, illnesses, allergic reactions, injuries, improper labeling and issues involving foreign objects in food had to be reported by local or state health departments to the FSIS district offices or through the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, which is only open weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
But the EECF makes it much easier for consumers to file complaints at any time.
When filling out the online form, consumers will be requested to provide the following details:
• When and where the product was purchased;
• When and how the problem was noticed; and
• How the agency can contact you for more information – personal information is optional and will only be used for the agency’s investigative purposes and product tracking.
Once submitted, the agency will determine the potential public health implications by taking into account whether or not other people have reported similar complaints or if inspectors have identified problems in any facilities that could have caused the reported issue.
Each reported complaint will also be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether any follow-up is required.
With her announcement of this new online form, Undersecretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen identified consumers as an important source of information for FSIS to utilize in ensuring the safety of the country’s food supply.
How do you think the launch of this new online complaint form could impact the industry? Will it lead to an influx in recall announcements? Your comments are most welcome below.
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