Industry Best Practices for Customer Complaints of Foreign Material in Meat and Poultry Products

By Nelson Gaydos, Outreach Specialist

For over two years, AAMP and members of the North American Meat Institute, the Southwest Meat Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation, Keystone Foods, and several other food industry organizations, in cooperation with USDA-FSIS, have developed a best practices document for handling customer complaints of foreign material in meat and poultry products. The document itself was designed to be applicable to a wide range of meat processors no matter the size, amount of product produced or number of employees.

“The purpose of this best practices document is to provide a method of receiving, investigating, and responding to foreign material complaints. Foreign material contamination can be found: 1) in the source raw material, 2) in the processing plant during production, or 3) by a customer or other purchasing group that may notify government agencies. The response procedure assumes that the establishment maintains preventive measures to protect product from foreign material introduction from all sources and documents actions when customer complaints are reported.”

“Though not all foreign material is a food safety hazard, every foreign material complaint should be evaluated and determined if a food safety risk is associated with the foreign material.” This document lists the necessary information needed for collecting and recording customer complaints, helps processors determine the validity of the complaint and if it is an isolated incident or systemic, determines if a recall needs to be issued and what corrective actions need to be taken to prevent future problems while taking into account relevant regulations and directives by both the USDA and the FDA. A decision-making tree is included at the end of the document to help further illustrated these steps. Additionally, an example Excel spread sheet highlighting the necessary information for recording and resolving customer complaints has also been created.

The Excel file, along with the document itself, can be found under the AAMP Material’s resource tab on the website at www.aamp.com.

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