Last month, thousands of foodies packed into the Washington Convention Center for the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show to gain culinary wisdom from icons like Paula Deen, Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis, and… the USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone.
Among the live demonstrations and more than 300 vendors, there consistently was a line of people waiting for a tour of the Food Safety Discovery Zone. Chefs and guests alike remarked about the 40-foot long yellow truck’s uniqueness, and everyone who toured the interactive exhibit learned something new. A favorite game among visitors was trying to guess which of two identical-looking burgers had been cooked to 160 °F and was safe to eat.
Using a food thermometer to check their answer, many were shocked to see that they had guessed wrong!
As they exited the Discovery Zone, people grabbed free copies of the Kitchen Companion handbook, keychains with food safety reminders, and food thermometers. One couple returned to the Discovery Zone late in the afternoon to report their shock that a vendor touched raw meat and then served them a cooked sample without washing his hands.
“Really? Well, it’s good that you noticed! It’s scary, right? It’s so easy to get sick if people don’t follow our recommendations,” Discovery Zone staffer Eileen Dykes told them, smiling. “You now know what you can do to protect yourselves and your loved ones!”
BAC!®, the Discovery Zone’s “green bacteria” costumed mascot posed for pictures with younger visitors. Appealing to foodies of all ages, the Discovery Zone staff made a big impression on the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show’s attendees and showed them how they can protect themselves and their families from foodborne illness.
Check the Food Safety Discovery Zone calendar to find out if the exhibit is coming to your area. In the meantime, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline or 1-888-674-6854) can answer your food safety questions weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The virtual food safety expert, Ask Karen, is available 24/7 at www.AskKaren.gov or m.AskKaren.gov on your Android or iOS mobile device.