USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is expanding its resources for small plants by launching a virtual representative that provides continual access to information. This new tool provides up-to-date information on frequently asked questions and communicates directly with technical experts from FSIS.

FSIS also launched the Small Plant Help Desk, a “mission-critical” tool for FSIS to help owners and operators enhance their food safety practices and strengthen public health protection.

“FSIS is committed to providing helpful and timely information to small plant operators across the country, who play an essential role in building strong local food economies,” says Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “We anticipate that inspection program personnel and the regulated industry, including small and very small plant operators and the business partners who support them, will benefit most from this valuable resource.”

FSIS inspection personnel are assigned to establishments nationwide to ensure the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, correctly labeled and packaged. With more than 90 percent of the 6,389 FSIS-inspected plants considered small or very small operations, the Small Plant Help Desk provides useful information and technical assistance to more than 2,000 callers annually. The Help Desk consists of FSIS employees who are subject-matter experts with recent experience working in meat, poultry or processed egg facilities. More information on small plant outreach is available here.

In addition to operating a telephone and virtual help desk, FSIS prepares various informational materials to assist small plants, such as how to implement plans to prevent or deal with food product and food defense issues, publishes compliance guidelines to help small plants comply with new or modified FSIS regulations, and hosts workshops on new topics of interest.

Visit the Small Plant Virtual Representative here.