One year ago, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service made our first leap into the world of mobile technology, bringing practical information about food safety literally to Americans’ fingertips. With the launch of our Mobile Ask Karen smartphone app, consumers are now able to ask questions like “To what temperature should I cook beef?” whenever and wherever they need the answers.
Ask Karen is the virtual food safety representative who has been answering consumers’ questions from desktop browsers since 2004. FSIS put Ask Karen “on-the-go” as a mobile app last May, making her much more accessible. Since Ask Karen was converted into a mobile app, traffic to the site has increased 15 fold. More people now visit the site through their mobile devices alone than previously visited the site from their computers, and they are getting the food safety tips they need according to Ask Karen’s 99 percent self-service rate.
It is no accident that Mobile Ask Karen’s “birthday” falls right at the start of summer. Barbecues and outdoor parties are the type of places Mobile Ask Karen is intended to be used. On Monday, May 7, FSIS took Mobile Ask Karen to the Whole Foods Market in Logan Circle, Washington, D.C. to celebrate the anniversary and spread awareness of the app among shoppers in the meat department. One shopper was surprised to learn from the app that he had been overcooking pork, and another joked about a friend who could use Ask Karen’s help when entertaining.
Questions “Karen” can answer range from the fairly simple, “What is food safety?” to the more complex, “How do you keep food safe during a power failure?” The questions and answers are updated based on real consumers’ concerns and recent public health news. If the answer to your question can’t be found in the extensive database, submit it by email and someone will answer it within a few days.
The app has had a successful first year, and we would like to see her keep growing. Download the app if you have an Android phone or add her to your homescreen if you have an iPhone. Type your question into the text box, or select “contact us” to email a question or chat with a live representative from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET on weekdays.