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New Online Tool Helps You Report Food Safety Concerns

New Online Tool Helps You Report Food Safety Concerns

Electronic form provides another means of insuring the food supply is safe

October 4th, 2012 by James Limbach of ConsumerAffairs in News

Worried about the safety of your food? Reporting problems with meat, poultry and egg products is a simple as a mouse click.

The new online Electronic Consumer Complaint Form unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) can be used report such things as illnesses, allergic reactions, injuries, improper labeling and issues with foreign objects to the Consumer Complaint Monitoring System (CCMS).

"Consumers are an important source of the information that FSIS needs to ensure that America's supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe," Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "This new tool empowers consumers to report problems directly to FSIS, enhancing our current surveillance of the food supply and our ability to prevent foodborne illness."

Launching a probe

Once an incident is reported to CCMS, the agency can determine what public health implications are associated with the incident, if other people are reporting similar issues, and if FSIS inspectors have identified problems in an establishment that could have caused the issue. On a case-by-case basis, FSIS may conduct additional follow up with complainants, especially if the problem indicates a potentially widespread or severe public health hazard.

CCMS facilitates the detection of public health threats in the nation's food supply and enables FSIS to respond rapidly to mitigate those threats. The system was created in 2001, and cases primarily have been reported to FSIS district offices, through state and local health departments, or through calls to the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline), which is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The new online form makes it possible for consumers to enter complaints after business hours and on weekends, and the predefined fields ensure that each incident report is thorough, accurate and in a format consistent with other entries.

Alternative reporting

Consumers who want to submit an incident to CCMS by talking to a live representative or who have food safety questions are encouraged to call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Consumers also can "Ask Karen," the virtual food safety representative available 24 hours a day at or via smartphone at Ask Karen's live chat services are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.

The ECCF is part of FSIS' efforts to implement value-added business processes, methodologies, or technologies that contribute to serving its mission, as outlined in Goal 8 of the agency's Fiscal Year 2011-2016 Strategic Plan.

The plan, which can be accessed here, will guide the agency through September 2016 in ensuring that food produced under FSIS' authority is safe for the American public.

Its eight specific, measurable goals all support three interlocking strategic themes: Prevent Foodborne Illness, Understand and Influence the Farm-to-Table Continuum, and Empower People and Strengthen Infrastructure.