Jun 1, 2006 (CIDRAP News) The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) yesterday announced plans to provide more help to operators of small meat, poultry, and egg-product plants in improving their food safety programs.
The initiative is aimed at the more than 6,000 federally inspected plants classified as small or very small, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said in a news release. Small plants are those that have between 10 and 500 employees and more than $2.5 million in annual sales. Very small plants have fewer than 10 workers or less than $2.5 million in sales.
In the program, the FSIS said it will provide a toll-free telephone number and a Web page to help small plants and will provide better access to technical resources, including scientific validation materials and training information.
In addition, FSIS employees will meet with plant operators to learn more about their needs, and the agency will hold joint training sessions for small plants and FSIS workers.
The FSIS also plans to inform plant owners of loan programs available through the USDA's Rural Business and Cooperative programs. Plant owners will be able to get loan guarantees to help them borrow money for upgrading facilities and equipment, said Thomas Dorr, USDA under secretary for rural development.
The new program follows a national series of listening sessions that helped the FSIS identify "innovative ways for small and very small establishments to fully benefit from our safety program," said Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA under secretary for food safety.
May 31 USDA news release