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When Something Strange Happens to Your Food - Who You Gonna Call?

Posted by Meredith Carothers, USDA Food Safety Education Staff in Health and Safety
Aug 04, 2021
USDA Food Safety Education staff showing the Meat and Poultry Hotline number
Contact the Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-674-6854, or visit Ask Karen to chat or email, Monday through Friday.

It’s Friday morning and you get out of bed, ready for another day at work, and you are excited that the pot roast you put in your slow cooker the night before is hot and ready to pack for lunch. You run into the kitchen and notice the light on the slow cooker is out. The flashing 12:00 on the microwave tells you there was a brief power outage overnight. But when did the power go out? The food looks like it cooked all the way and it is still a little warm, can you eat it? Will you get sick?

Experts Here to Help

If you are not sure of the answer, then the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline is here for you, and with new extended hours, can answer even more of your food safety questions.

“We receive tens of thousands of calls, emails and chats each year from novice and experienced cooks, to food handlers asking about foodborne bacteria,” said Marianne Gravely, senior technical specialist, who has worked with the hotline since its inception in 1985. “The desire for extended operating hours shows the benefit of this resource, and I’m excited to be able to help more consumers be food safe.”

The Hotline’s Mission

Operated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in Washington, D.C., the Meat and Poultry Hotline has been educating consumers for more than three decades. The toll-free telephone service assists in the prevention of foodborne illnesses by answering consumers’ questions about the safe storage, handling and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products.

Extended Hours

Beginning this month, the hotline is keeping its phone, chat and email lines open an additional two hours, providing more time for consumers, especially those on the West Coast, to contact live food specialists during peak hours of the day: from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific Time; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time.

If you have a question when the Hotline is not staffed, don’t worry, because the Meat and Poultry Hotline provides answers to thousands of frequently asked questions through Ask Karen, a 24-hour food safety virtual representative.

So what do you think, is the slow cooker pot roast safe to eat? Why guess and put your family and yourself at risk of getting sick? Instead, you can contact the Meat and Poultry Hotline by calling 1-888-674-6854, or visit Ask Karen to chat or email, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific Time.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Corey Ayres
Apr 03, 2017

This is a great article full of important, and much-needed, information. Great job meeting the needs of the people!

Apr 04, 2017

as a food handler, i am pretty sure that the guidelines to follow will be efficient when confronted with this situation.i have food safety training and food handlers certificate.I would be more concerned if there was a blackout for more than 4hrs.obviously the meat would not be safe to eat and its best to throw it away.

Karina Blasco
Apr 06, 2017

Of Course! Thank you very Much !!!

Luanne Ziliani
May 20, 2017

Please answer this question I saw on channel 7 news tonight that there is a recall about Nathans Hot Dogs My husband and I just finished 2 Nathans Hot Dog each I also have a another unopened pack in the refrigerator. They are Nathans 8 Bun Length skinless beef Franks (12 oz.) We just bought them today at Stop N Shop. They say Use By Sep 05 2017 14:06 EST296 L7. Thank you. Please respond asap as we are nervous about the recall.

Ben Weaver
May 25, 2017

@Luanne Ziliani - Only “Nathan’s SKINLESS 8 BEEF FRANKS,” with a Use By date of Aug. 19, 2017 are part of this recall. Since your beef franks have a Sep 05 2017 Use-By date they are not part of the recall and are safe to eat. If you have more questions about the recall you can call the John Morrell Co at 1-(877) 933-4625.

John Doe
Jun 29, 2017

John Soules Food in Tyler, Texas is at risk because of improper maintenance procedures, cross contamination and other major issues.

Ben Weaver
Jun 29, 2017

@John Doe - Please contact the FSIS district office in Dallas, TX if you have concerns about the company: (214) 767-9116.