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“Ask Karen” Tweets to Reduce Foodborne Illness at Fourth of July Barbecues

Posted by Catherine Cochran, Public Affairs Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service in Health and Safety Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service started its Fourth of July “party” a little early this year, hosting a bilingual Twitter party on June 28 to answer its tweeps’ food safety questions in advance of any gatherings they are hosting. “Ask Karen,” FSIS’ virtual food safety representative, and her Spanish-language counterpart “Pregúntele a Karen” answered  questions from @USDAFoodSafety and @USDAFoodSafe_es about food safety around the Fourth of July holiday and summer in general.

 Foodborne illness rises in summer because bacteria grow faster in warmer temperatures. Since Fourth of July celebrations center around food and the outdoors, FSIS took to the Twittersphere to reach a large audience about the importance of safe food handling and to clarify any confusion about cooking food, storing leftovers, and more.  Here is a wrap-up of the chat, which used the hashtag #AskKaren to facilitate the conversation:

Q1 RT .@abbebrown_jail: What's the best way to defrost meat? #AskKaren

A1 .@abbebrown_jail: The best way to defrost is in the fridge! If you don't have time, microwave or cold H2O #askkaren

Q2 RT .@DCSpinman is it ok to grill burgers and chicken at the same time, or seperately? #AskKaren

A2 Chicken & burgers can grill at the same time! Cook poultry to 165F and burgers to 160F. Use a food thermometer. #AskKaren

Q3 .@ktaylorphotos: How long can potato salad stay out before it goes bad? #askkaren #July4

A3: All perishable items, incl potato salad, should be chilled w/in 2 hrs after preparing, or 1hr in temps over 90F #AskKaren

Q4 .@carissawitya is it ok if I season meats and chicken at the same plate or sauce? or separately? #askKaren #4July

A4: Chx/Meat can marinate together, but use a fresh plate once they are cooked! Don't put cooked items on plates that held raw. #AskKaren

Q5 .@abbebrown_jail: I've heard that the tighter you pack a cooler, the colder it stays. Is that true? #AskKaren

A5 Yes a full cooler stays cold longer - same for your freezer! Keeping it in the shade & opening infrequently are also good ideas #AskKaren

Q6 ¿Cuál es la temp. a la que debo cocinar hamburguesas d res a la parrilla? #AskKaren

A6 Cocínalas hasta 160F, al medir con un termómetro para alimentos. #AskKaren

Q7 .@ktaylorphotos Can bottled water make you sick if left out in the hot sun after it's been opened? #Askkaren #july4

A7 Unfortunately we don't have too much info on bottled water, but you should be able to get an answer here 888-SAFEFOOD #askkaren

Q8 .@blakecarol My fridge was open a few hours and got to 59 degrees. Are milk/meat still safe? #askkaren

A8 Glad u have an appliance therm! When in doubt, throw it out. Food is not safe if above 40F more than 2 hrs. #askkaren

Q9 .@abbe_brown What type of containers/bags do you recommend using to freeze food? #AskKaren

A9 It's safe to freeze food in its original package, but we suggest overwrapping for better quality. More: #askkaren

Q10 ¿Cómo puedo mantener los alimentos sanos mientras voy en un “road trip”? #AskKaren

A10 Lleva 2 neveritas con suficiente hielo/paquetes gel congelados (40F). 1ra para bebidas y 2nd para alimentos perecederos. #AskKaren

Q10 in English: How can I keep food safe on a road trip? #AskKaren

A10 (English) Take 1 cooler for drinks & another for food. The drink cooler will be opened more, & food can stay cold longer #AskKaren

Q11 .@meatone how long will frozen fish last from pack on date? #AskKaren

A11 Frozen food is safe indefinitely, but frozen fish should be at best quality w/in 3-6 mos. #askkaren

 Q12 .@abbebrown What's your best advice on meat dept specials? Sometimes they look like a different color. Is that safe? #AskKaren

A12 .@abbebrown Many factors affect meat color. No matter when/where u buy, store properly. #AskKaren

Q13 .@mi_alma_escrita What's the safest way to thaw meat if running on a time constraint? #AskKaren

A13: To thaw in a hurry, use the microwave & cook food immediately. Or cook from frozen state. Will take ~1.5x to cook, however. #AskKaren

A13 cont'd: Don't cook from the frozen state on a grill or in a slowcooker. It won't get hot fast enough. #AskKaren

Q14 .@165in365 I refrigerate my leftovers right away, though many sources say 2 cool down on counter b4 storing. Which is best? #AskKaren

A14 Put leftovers in shallow containers and straight into the fridge/freezer. #askkaren

That wraps up our chat, but call 888-MPHotline or visit if we didn't get to your question! #AskKaren

Esto finaliza el chat. Si no contestar tus ?'s llama la linea de info. 888-674-6854 / visita #askkaren

The hotline & #AskKaren live chat features are open 2 more hrs today. Have a safe & happy #July4.

On June 26, FSIS launced “Mobile Pregúntele a Karen,” a Spanish-language smartphone app that allows consumers to ask food safety questions like these and more 24 hours a day, whenever and wherever they need answers. Take Mobile Ask Karen (English version) or Mobile Pregúntele a Karen with you this Fourth of July to help prevent foodborne illness for you and your family.

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Jul 09, 2012

Que actividad tan interesante. Esta, definitivamente, es una muy buena manera de usar las redes sociales. Un saludo, Gracias por su trabajo.