For many years the USDA: Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has had a website on the Internet. At one point in time the website had gotten very large and was difficult to navigate. However, over the last few years FSIS has worked very diligently to improve their website. Today it is an excellent source of information for consumers, educators, scientists, researchers, small/very small plants, businesses, partners, constituent groups and FSIS employees. It literally has something for everyone. However, of all these groups perhaps the one group that can benefit the most is small and very small plants.
When you go to the home page you will find several areas listed in a banner across the top. Three areas on the banner of particular interest to small and very small processors are; Home Page, News & Events and Fact Sheets.
The home page allows visitors to browse by audience or subject. Browse by Subject includes areas for; Food Safety, Education, Science, Regulations and Policies, FSIS Recalls and Food Defense and Emergency Response. The home page also includes an I want to section. Some of the areas in this section are; Ask a Food Safety Question, Ask FSIS an Inspection Related Question, Find Resources for Small Plants and Find an Inspected Establishment.
The Ask a Food Safety Question (Ask Karen) area is designed primarily as a resource to enable consumers to get answers to food safety questions. However, it can also be used as a resource for small and very small plants to get answers for personal questions and answers for their customers. In this area you are able to review answers for common questions, submit a question or participate in a live chat with a member of the FSIS support team.
Also on the home page is an area you can ask FSIS an Inspection-Related Question. This area of the website is specifically designed for meat processors. Many small and very small plants have found this feature of the website to be very helpful. In this area you can review answers to previously asked questions in addition to asking your own question.
An additional area on the home page is Find Resources for Small Plants. This area clearly focuses on providing information for small plants. In this area you can link to information on; small and very small plant outreach, Small Plant News and compliance assistance. Many processors have found the information in the Small Plant News to be helpful.
Another feature of the home page allows you to find an inspected establishment by either establishment name or establishment number.
The tab New & Events on the banner at the top of the home webpage provides you access to news releases, meetings and events, food safety videos and podcasts. You can also sign up to receive email updates in various areas including; FSIS recalls, regulations and policies. Make sure you sign up only for those emails that genuinely interest you. If you sign up for all of the email updates you will find that your email box will become full.
With the banner tab Fact Sheets you are linked to fact sheets in many areas including; safe food handling, meat preparation, seasonal food safety and food labeling.
I suggest you make the FSIS website a tool that you frequently use. It contains a wealth of good information. Don’t let the amount of information on it overwhelm you. Each time you visit the website it will become easier for you to navigate it.
Remember: Excuses are useless, results are priceless.