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Three Ways USDA Helps Consumers Keep Foods Safe

Posted by James Rogers, Senior Advisor for Food Safety, Office of the Chief Scientist in Health and Safety Research and Science USDA Results
Jul 19, 2016
A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker
It’s important for consumers to be concerned about food safety. From shopping to storing leftovers, USDA provides easily accessible information to help keep food safe every step of the way.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence

Have you ever wondered how to safely grill your burgers? How about determining the latest food safety recalls?  USDA provides a number of resources to ensure that you have access to the most up to date information on food safety.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a serious challenge and USDA is serious about helping families avoid dangerous bacteria and other contaminants that can lead to foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans are likely to become ill from foodborne illness each year, but most of these illnesses are thought to be preventable. That’s why USDA provides a number of tools consumers can use in order to prevent or reduce the risk of foodborne illness that would spoil the meal.

1. Ask Karen

Ask Karen provides expert knowledge on preventing foodborne illness by sharing food handling, storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. Using a webpage link, you can search for such topics as—how long you can safely keep meat in the refrigerator, how long it takes to boil an egg or whether it's better to use wooden or plastic cutting boards. The Ask Karen page is available 24/7 and includes the capability to chat live with a food safety advisor.

2. USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline

If you prefer to speak directly to a food safety specialist, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline personnel can answer your food safety questions on weekdays year-round. This toll-free telephone service provides answers about the safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. The Hotline can be reached Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time and provides information in English and Spanish. Outside of these days/hours, there are recorded food safety messages available 24 hours a day. You may also send email questions to

USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).

3. Email Updates

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service provides an email subscription service that sends email updates targeted to selected topics you have chosen. You may add or delete your selected subscription items at any time.

These three, easy-to-use resources can help keep the food on your dinner table safe. If you would like more information, please visit