Have you ever opened a package from the grocery store to find that something wasn’t right about it, and then wondered who to call to report a problem? The company’s toll-free number? The grocery store that sold it? Or someone else? If that product involves meat, poultry, or a processed egg product, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service just made it easier consumers to alert the agency to food safety problems, any time of the day or night.
The Electronic Consumer Complaint Form (ECCF), which became available on FSIS’s website this morning, will allow consumers to submit the important information FSIS needs to begin an investigation in just six steps. Consumers will be requested to provide details on:
- 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 be used solely for the agency’s investigative purposes and product tracking.
I know how you feel when you find that something is not in the condition you expected, or worse, if something you bought and prepared has made you or your family sick. Some parents have to carefully read food labels to make sure allergens will not cause a reaction for their child. Now, if they suspect something is mislabeled, the ECCF offers them an additional option for reporting the problem directly to USDA for appropriate investigation and action.
Our food safety inspectors work hard to ensure the food supply is safe. However, hazards can enter the food supply at many points along the farm-to-fork spectrum where there aren’t any inspectors. ECCF is a new gateway to our existing Consumer Complaint Monitoring System, which allows us to crowdsource surveillance of the overall food supply. If you find or suspect that a product is mislabeled, contains an item or ingredient that shouldn’t be there, or if it has caused an illness or allergic reaction, it is crucial that federal public health agencies know about it.
We’ve relied on reporting from state and local health departments and our own Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-MPHotline) until now, and ECCF will open up our availability to hear you 24/7. It will remove constraints like office hours and even human error that may have prevented us from receiving important details in the past.
This afternoon at 3 p.m. EST, I’ll be hosting USDA’s monthly virtual office hours. Follow the Twitter feed @USDA and use the hashtag #AskUSDA to join our food safety forum as part of National Food Safety Education Month. I’ll be happy to take questions about ECCF and other topics pertaining to the safety and safe handling of meat, poultry and processed egg products that FSIS regulates.