Small Business Administrationís, Office of the National
Welcome to USDAís Food Safety and Inspection Service podcast. Each episode
will bring you cutting edge news and information about how FSIS is working to ensure public
health protection through food safety. While weíre on the job, you can rest assured that
your meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, properly labeled,
and packaged correctly. So turn up your volume and listen in.
Hello, and welcome. This is Alexandra Tarrant from FSIS.
Joining me today is Ralph Stafko, Director of the State
Outreach and Technical Assistance Staff in the FSIS
Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training, or
OOEET. Heís here to talk about the Small Business
Administrationís, Office of the National Ombudsman.
The OOEET staff also operates the FSIS Small Plant Help
Desk, which provides information and guidance on agency
functions, resources, requirements and procedures. Thank
you for joining us today, Ralph.
My pleasure, Alex, and thanks for the plug on the Small
Plant Help Desk, weíre really proud of that. This is a
new service to small plant operators or anyone else for
that matter who has a question about our agency. Callers
get a real live person who will answer their questions
and answer them promptly. The Help Desk operates
weekdays, 8 to 4, Eastern Standard. The toll-free number
is: 1-877-FSIS-HELP; thatís 1-877-374-7435. Questions
can also be e-mailed to our mailbox at
Good to know. Thanks, Ralph. Now tell us about the
mission of the Small Business Administrationís Office of
the National Ombudsman.
Sure. Thatís a creation of the 1996 Small Business
Regulatory Reform Actówe often refer to it as SBREFA.
The National Ombudsmanís Office is a key feature of that
Act and their primary task is to assist small businesses
in the U.S. that believe theyíve been subject to
excessive or unfair federal regulatory actions. These
could be things like repetitive, unjustified audits or
investigations, excessive fines, unfair penalties,
threats, retaliation or other unfair enforcement action
by any federal agency.
So is that assistance in addition to the FSIS appeals
process that our listeners may be familiar with?
Yes, thatís correct. Presently, FSIS-inspected plants
have a right to appeal any inspection decision through a
structured agency appeals process. In fact, FSIS
encourages plant owners and operators to appeal
inspection and enforcement decisions that they believe
are unfair or not consistent with applicable regulatory
Using the FSIS appeals process allows for disagreements
between plant owners and operators and FSIS inspectors
be fully aired and properly reviewed by the responsible
What happens if the decision is not agreed to by a plant
owner or operator?
Guest: If an owner or operator has already gone through
the FSIS appeals process and is not satisfied with the
result, at that point they may choose to file a comment
or complaint with the National Ombudsman.
Since 1996, the Ombudsman has been serving in that role
receiving complaints from small business owners and
acting as a liaison between them and the more than 35
federal regulatory agencies.
So, what happens to the complaints when they are
received by the Ombudsman?
The complaints received from small businesses are
transmitted by the Ombudsman to the relevant federal
agency with a request that the agency reconsider that
action and the fairness of the enforcement underlying
Now, itís important to note that the National Ombudsman
cannot change, stop, or delay a federal agency
enforcement action, nor can they assist in
The Ombudsman does, however, provide a third party that
can demand another look when a regulated business
believes it was treated unfairly by an agency.
The Ombudsman, once involved, serves as a liaison
between the plant manager and the agency and can call
for meetings if required.
Interesting. So, how can our listeners get more
information on the National Ombudsman?
For more information on the Small Business
Administrationís Office of the National Ombudsman, you
can call them toll-free at 1-888-REG-FAIR or
1-888-734-3247. You can also fax to 202-481-5719, or
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit their
website at www.sba.gov/ombudsman.
Ralph, thank you for your time today. Youíve provided a
lot of useful information for establishment owners and
Thanks for having me, Alex.
Thank you all for listening, and remember, if you have
questions or ideas for a podcast, please e-mail them to
Well, thatís all for this episode. Weíd like your feedback on our podcast. Or if you
have ideas for future podcasts, send us an e-mail at email@example.com. To learn more
about food safety, try our web site at www.fsis.usda.govv.
Thanks for tuning in.
Last Modified: May 12, 2010