Agency aims to increase spread of food safety information.

WASHINGTON – To increase the delivery of safe food handling and preparation information, the US Dept. of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced it is expanding the hours of its Meat and Poultry Hotline and Ask Karen chat services. USDA’s 2017-2021 strategic plan focuses on the reduction of foodborne illness, and part of that plan is increasing public awareness of safe food handling information.

The Meat and Poultry Hotline has been in service and answering consumer questions about the safe storage, handling and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products since 1985. The hotline is now available for an additional two hours, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.   

“Our hotline provides a valuable service in educating consumers about how to safely prepare food,” Al Almanza, FSIS administrator, said in a statement. “By keeping the hotline open an additional two hours, we are expanding our reach to allow more consumers, including those on the West Coast, to have their food safety questions answered.”

In addition to the hotline, a 24-hour online service, “Ask Karen,” provides answers to frequently asked questions and allows consumers to email or live-chat with a food safety specialist during operating hours. Since its inception 32 years ago, the hotline has answered over 3 million questions from novice cooks to experienced food handlers on subjects ranging from roasting a turkey to foodborne bacteria.

“Our hotline staff are experts in their field and have backgrounds in nutrition, food technology and public health,” said Almanza. “Experts are available to talk with people in English and Spanish, so we are able to help address the food safety needs of diverse communities.”

Consumers can contact the Meat and Poultry Hotline to speak to a live food expert at 1-888-674-6854, or visit Ask Karen to chat or email (in English or Spanish), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.