Here’s how to report your USA food problem directly to USDA or FDA


Anytime you think you are seriously ill, seek medical attention. And if you think food caused your illness, make sure it gets reported. Most foodborne illnesses are “reportable,” which means your doctor lets the local health department know about them.

That’s how you might become a “confirmed case” in a multistate outbreak.  It’s your confirmed test result that gets reported to the health department,  your name is kept private.

But if you do not want to pursue action through a medical route, you can report your bad food experience directly to federal regulators. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration both welcome consumer reports about contaminated or adulterated food.

But how?

Both FSIS and FDA explain how on their websites. As September’s food safety month comes to a close shortly, Food Safety News is passing this information along with some explanation to help consumers get to the right agency.  The FSIS and FDA are responsible for protecting different segments of the food supply. If you have experienced a problem with a food product, be sure to contact the appropriate public health organization.

To reach them by phone:

  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) — Call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854 or report the complaint online.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — Call 888-723-3366 (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT.  Closed Thursdays 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. EDT.

It’s important before you call FSIS or FDA that you understand how federal regulatory responsibilities are divided among the various agencies. The FDA, which has the most authority in these areas, offers this outline of how it breaks down.

In general, FDA regulates foods and other products as follows:

  • dietary supplements
  • bottled water
  • food additives
  • infant formulas
  • other food (although the U.S. Department of Agriculture plays a lead role in regulating aspects of some meat, poultry, and egg products)

FDA also regulates drugs, including:

  • prescription drugs (both brand-name and generic)
  • non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs

Biologics, including:

  • vaccines for humans
  • blood and blood products
  • cellular and gene therapy products
  • tissue and tissue products
  • allergenic

Medical devices, including:

  • simple items like tongue depressors and bedpans
  • complex technologies such as heart pacemakers
  • dental devices
  • surgical implants and prosthetics

Electronic products that give off radiation, including:

  • microwave ovens
  • X-ray equipment
  • laser products
  • ultrasonic therapy equipment
  • mercury vapor lamps
  • sunlamps

Cosmetics, including:

  • color additives found in makeup and other personal care products
  • skin moisturizers and cleansers
  • nail polish and perfume

Veterinary products, including:

  • livestock feeds
  • pet foods
  • veterinary drugs and devices

Tobacco products, including:

  • cigarettes
  • cigarette tobacco
  • roll-your-own tobacco
  • smokeless tobacco

By subject and topic, FDA also has “functions related” to these federal agencies:

  • Advertising — The Federal Trade Commission is a federal agency that regulates many types of advertising. The FTC protects consumers by stopping unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. Consumers may write to FTC at 6th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580; telephone 202-326-2222.
  • Alcohol — The Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) regulates aspects of alcohol production, importation, wholesale distribution, labeling, and advertising. Consumers may write to TTB at 1310 G St. N.W., Box 12, Washington, DC 20005; telephone 202-453-2000 or see the TTB Contact page.
  • Consumer Products The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) works to ensure the safety of consumer products such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, household chemicals, and other products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard. Consumers may send written inquiries to CPSC, Washington, DC 20207. CPSC operates a toll-free hotline at 800-638-2772 or TTY at 800-638-8270 for consumers to report unsafe products or to obtain information regarding products and recalls.
  • Drugs of abuse — The Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) works to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States, including as they pertain to the manufacture, distribution, and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances. Inquiries regarding DEA activities may be sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control 8701 Morrissette Drive Springfield, VA 22152; telephone 202-307-1000.
  • Pesticides — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates many aspects of pesticides. EPA sets limits on how much of a pesticide may be used on food during growing and processing, and how much can remain on the food you buy. Public inquiries regarding EPA should be mailed to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs Public Docket (7506C), 3404, 401M St., Washington, DC 20460; telephone 202-260-2080.
  • Vaccines for animal diseases  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Center for Veterinary Biologics, regulates aspects of veterinary vaccines and other types of veterinary biologics. Public inquiries regarding APHIS’s Center for Veterinary Biologics should be mailed to Center for Veterinary Biologics, 1920 Dayton Ave, P.O. Box 844, Ames, Iowa, 50010; telephone 515-337-6100 or see the APHIS Contact page.
  • Water The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates certain aspects of drinking water. EPA develops national standards for drinking water from municipal water supplies (tap water) to limit the levels of impurities.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates the following:

FSIS regulates aspects of the safety and labeling of traditional (non-game) meats, poultry, certain egg products and catfish. For a USDA investigation of any problem with these products, please be ready to provide:

  • The original container or packaging
  • Any foreign object that you might have discovered in the product
  • Any uneaten portion of the food (refrigerate or freeze it)

Here’s the information the FSIS Hotline needs from you:

  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 that you purchased the product.
  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.
  8. If an injury or illness allegedly results from the use of a meat or poultry product, you will also need to tell the hotline staff about the type, symptoms, time of occurrence, and name of the attending health professional (if applicable).

FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, known as CFSAN, provides services to consumers, domestic and foreign industry and other outside groups regarding field programs; agency administrative tasks; scientific analysis and support; and policy, planning, and handling of critical issues related to food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics.

How to Report a Problem with Food to FDA

  • For all questions or problems related to meat and poultry, please contact USDA.
  • If you are a consumer, health professional, or member of the food industry who wants to voluntarily report a complaint or adverse event (illness or serious allergic reaction) related to a food product, you have three choices:
  • If you are a member of the food industry who needs to submit a Reportable Food Registry report when there is a reasonable probability that an article on food will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, please visit the Reportable Food Registry page.

How to report seafood-related toxins and Scombrotoxin fish poisoning illnesses

To help FDA effectively investigate, remove unsafe seafood products from the market, and develop new prevention strategies, the FDA relies on illness reporting from public health officials and healthcare providers. While most foodborne outbreaks are tracked through the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) network, seafood-related illnesses caused by natural toxins have a unique reporting mechanism.

To contact FDA by mail: 

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Outreach and Information Center
5001 Campus Drive, HFS-009
College Park, MD 20740-3835

FDA asks that products not be mailed to this address.

This article by Dan Flynn first appeared on Food Safety News and is reposted here with permission.

OUTBREAK ALERT AND PRODUCT RECALL: Listeria monocytogenes in pre-cooked chicken

One person is dead and two more have been hospitalized in a multi-state outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes according to a report released last night and updated today by the US Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention (CDC).

All three outbreak victims were either living in a long-term care facility or were already hospitalized at the time they became infected.

Two of the cases, including the single fatality, are in Texas. The remaining case is in Delaware.

Victims range in age from 60 to 95, with a median age of 89 years old. Two of the three are male.

The CDC warns that the true number of infected people may be higher, and the outbreak may not be limited to Texas and Delaware.

The outbreak strain was recovered from two samples of precooked chicken products during routine sampling conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

One of the positive samples was produced by Tyson Foods Inc. in Dexter, MO. The producer of the second sample to test positive for the outbreak strain has not yet been named.

Tyson recalls 4,246 TONS of pre-cooked chicken products

Tyson has recalled approximately 8,492,832 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products produced between December 26, 2020 and April 13, 2021 and bearing the establishment number, EST. P-7089.

The recalled products include frozen, fully cooked chicken strips, diced chicken, chicken wing sections, and fully cooked pizza with chicken and were sold under multiple brand names, including: Tyson, Jet’s Pizza, Casey’s General Store, Marco’s Pizza, and Little Caesars.

These items were shipped nationwide to retailers and institutions, including hospitals, nursing facilities, restaurants, schools and Department of Defense locations. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Consumers and food handlers should take additional care when preparing dishes that included pre-cooked chicken, especially when the food will be offered to the elderly or to immunocompromised individuals, including pregnant women.

What businesses need to know

  • Do not serve or sell recalled products.
  • Long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other facilities that serve people at higher risk for severe Listeria illness should take extra precautions. Listeria is particularly harmful to people who are 65 years or older, pregnant, or have a weakened immune system.
  • All of the sick people in this outbreak ate foods served at a long-term care facility or hospital.
  • Follow USDA-FSIS guidelines to prevent the spread and growth of Listeria.

What consumers need to know

  • Do not eat any recalled products. Throw them away or return them to where you bought them.
  • Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator, containers, and surfaces that may have touched the recalled products. Listeria can survive in the refrigerator and can easily spread to other foods and surfaces.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if you have these symptoms after eating recalled products.
    • If you are pregnant: Fever and muscle aches. Your illness may be mild, but Listeria can cause pregnancy loss or premature birth. It can also cause serious illness or death in newborns.
    • If you are not pregnant: Headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions, in addition to fever and muscle aches.

Raw ground turkey behind Salmonella outbreak—CDC

A twelve-state outbreak of Salmonella infections has been linked to raw ground turkey meat, according to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation report released today (April 12, 2021).

Scope of the outbreak

At least twenty-eight (28) cases of Salmonella Hadar with symptom onset dates between December 28, 2020, to March 4, 2021 were reported in the following states:

  • Arizona (1)
  • Connecticut (1)
  • Indiana (1)
  • Maine (1)
  • Massachusetts (7)
  • Missouri (1)
  • New Hampshire (1)
  • New Jersey (2)
  • New York (4)
  • North Carolina (3)
  • Pennsylvania (4)
  • Virginia (2)

Although two of the outbreak victims were hospitalized, there have been no deaths.

Epidemiological, laboratory and traceback data have linked the cases to raw, ground turkey products that were produced on December 18, 2020 through December 29, 2020.

Public Health Alert

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a Public Health Alert for approximately 211,406 pounds of raw ground turkey products, produced by Plainville Brands, LLC (Pennsylvania) after the outbreak strain was recovered from an intact package of Plainville Brands’ ground turkey.

The alert encompasses the following items, all of which bear the establishment number EST. P-244 inside the USDA mark of inspection:

  • 1-lb. packages of Nature’s Promise Free from 94% LEAN | 6% FAT Ground Turkey with Use by/freeze/sell by date of 1/1/21, 1/3/21,1/4/21, 1/8/21 and 1/10/21 on the front of the package.
  • 1-lb. packages of Wegman 94% LEAN | 6% FAT Ground Turkey with Use by/freeze/sell by date of 1/3/21, 1/4/21, 1/8/21 and 1/10/21 on the front of the package.
  • 3-lb. packages of Wegman 94% LEAN | 6% FAT Ground Turkey with Use by/freeze/sell by date of 1/3/21, 1/4/21, 1/8/21 and 1/10/21 on the front of the package.
  • 1-lb. packages of Plainville Farms Ground White Turkey 93% | 7% Fat with Use by/freeze/sell by date of 1/10/21 on the front of the package.

All of the suspect packages have passed their Use by/freeze/sell by dates, and are believed to no longer be available for purchase. However, consumers may still have some of the implicated packages in their home freezers.

Not all of the outbreak cases have shown a direct link to raw ground turkey products from Plainville Brands. FSIS warns consumers that other raw ground turkey products may also be a source of some illnesses. It is possible that more recalls and/or public health alerts may follow.

What consumers need to know

  • Most people infected with Salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, beginning six hours to six days after being exposed. Most infected individuals recover without treatment in a week or less; however some people may experience more severe illnesses and may require medical treatment or hospitalization.
  • Consumers should check their freezers and discard any of the products listed in the FSIS Public Health Alert, and disinfect any surfaces with which these products may have come into contact.
  • Food handlers, whether in the home or in a commercial establishment, should take extreme care when preparing and cooking any raw ground poultry meat, including raw ground turkey, as these products carry a high risk of being contaminated with Salmonella.

Plainville’s response

Plainville issued the following statement in response to the FSIS Public Health Alert:

As a proud provider of natural and certified organic foods, the

health and safety of our customers is essential to who we are as a

company. We are providing any assistance requested by health and

safety officials. We are proud of our health and safety record and

protocols, and are honored that generations of families have trusted

Plainville and welcomed us into their homes.”

Tom Donovan, Vice President of Plainville Brands, LLC