As Under Secretary for Food Safety, one of my top priorities has been improving communications tools to get food safety information to more people, much faster. Today, it has been my pleasure to announce a new tool that has the potential to really reduce the number of foodborne illnesses, especially as we approach the summer grilling season.
USDA’s virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen, is now available in mobile format. That means you can access Karen’s extensive knowledge base about safely handling, cooking, and storing food instantly from your smartphone, anywhere and anytime your phone can access the Internet.
We’ve seen that Karen’s most frequently asked questions are not the type of things people wonder while sitting at a computer. “Is food safe if left out overnight?” or “Should I wash chicken before cooking it?” are questions you need answered right away, not while you’re checking e-mails.
Mobile Ask Karen has all the same features as Ask Karen on your computer. Only now, she can answer your food safety questions at the grocery store, in your kitchen, or at your barbecue grill. Hopefully, by sending Karen out to picnics, farmers markets, and backyard cookouts via people’s smartphones, she’ll be able to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses that usually increase in the summer months.
Our Food Safety Education Staff hosted a Food Safety Camp at Maryland City Elementary School this morning, and I had the privilege of demonstrating Mobile Ask Karen to the students’ parents and teachers. The response was tremendous. As a mother of two, I know how often this app can come in handy, and I also know how much moms rely on our cell phones. Using your iOS (iPhone and iPad) or Android device, you can chat live with a food safety expert on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, and the app provides the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline number (1-888-MPHotline) in case you want to speak to someone directly. If it’s midnight, however, and you’re deciding whether to toss or keep dinner leftovers, the Ask Karen database is available 24/7 and has the answers to nearly 1,500 food safety questions.
Take Karen with you! To start using Mobile Ask Karen now, go to m.AskKaren.gov, or scan the QR code into your iOS or Android-powered device: