How to report a food safety problem – Part 1

Should you experience a problem with food, specifically meat, poultry and processed egg products be sure to call or email the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline, or fill out an online complaint report.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) provide consumers with valuable information to keep the food we prepare and eat safe. America’s food supply is well monitored; however food product complaints do occur. Specific government agencies are tasked with assisting consumers with food concerns. Should you experience illness, find a foreign object, suspect contamination, have an allergic reaction or find improper labeling of meat, poultry or a processed egg product, it is important to know who to contact.

Michigan State University Extension encourages consumers to report meat, poultry and processed egg product concerns and complaints to the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling toll-free 1-888-674-6854. The hotline is available weekdays and allows consumers to speak to an actual food safety specialist. You can also email them at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to report a complaint or complete an online complaint form.

Be well prepared before you call the hotline as they will ask the following information:

  1. Name, address and phone number.
  2. Brand name, product name and manufacturer of the product.
  3. The size and package type.
  4. Can or package codes (not UPC bar codes) and dates.
  5. Establishment number (EST) usually found in the circle or shield near the “USDA passed and inspected” phrase.
  6. Name and location of the store, as well as the date the product was purchased.
  7. You can complain to the store or the product’s manufacturer if you don’t choose to make a formal complaint to the USDA.

Tell the hotline staff if you or others sought medical attention after consuming a specific food product. Explain symptoms, share the name of the visited health care provider and the date. This information allows the USDA to further investigate.

If you find a foreign object in a meat, poultry or processed egg product keep the original packaging, the foreign object and refrigerate or freeze any uneaten portion. Again these items are beneficial to assist the USDA with further investigation of food product complaints.

Do not dismiss a food product issue – use the FSIS to report your concerns and potentially protect others.

For more on this topic read How to report a food safety problem – Part 2.

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