Millenials and Food Safety

What do Millennials and the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline Have in Common? – The Big 3-0
Jul 06, 2015
Luis Delgadillo, Public Affairs Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Many millennials will turn thirty-years old this year. Rather than lament this milestone, the experts of the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline revel in the celebration. July 1, 2015 marked the 30th anniversary of the hotline, and to commemorate, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will highlight the hotline’s accomplishments.

Three Million Calls Answered
Hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness when they answer calls on all sorts of food safety topics. Routinely they answer consumers’ questions about recalls and safe internal cooking temperatures. In fact, since its inception in 1985 the hotline has taken more than 3 million calls from the public.

When the hotline started, the toll-free phone service was the most up-to date method of reaching consumers, now we communicate with consumers across all sorts of media.

Top Five Food Safety Questions
How long can I keep meat in the refrigerator?
How long will cooked food stay safe in the refrigerator?
Is food safe if left out overnight?
How long can I keep a turkey (or any food) in the freezer?
What is the safe internal temperature for cooking meat and poultry?
Typical questions consumers ask USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline are related to the basics of food safety: the storage time of meat and poultry in the refrigerator and freezer, whether a certain food item is safe if left out on the counter overnight, and what is the safe cooking temperature for meat or poultry. The Hotline also receives questions related to food safety during or after a power failure and November is its busiest time of the year. Representatives hear every possible question related to the buying, storage, handling and cooking of turkey.

During the month of November the Hotline receives more than 2,000 calls mostly related to the buying, storage, preparation and cooking of turkey for Thanksgiving Day. This is twice the number of calls it gets during an average month for the rest of the year (1,000 per month).

New Tools, Same Mission
FSIS has kept up with the times, and now consumers can query the hotline with live chat online, via email, and through the ‘Ask Karen’ application on Android and iOS devices. Even with all of the food safety resources available to consumers today, the MP hotline remains a highly relevant tool.

“It means a lot to consumers that they can call a toll-free phone number and speak to a ‘real live person,’” says 27-year hotline veteran Marianne Gravely. “Sometimes there are questions and situations that are not easily answered by e-mail or searching the web. That’s why we’re here.”

Inquiring meal planners can reach out to live hotline agents toll-free at, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Services are available in English and Spanish from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Millennials and consumers of all ages can also review their food safety knowledge with USDA’s virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen at AskKaren.gov. For folks who need information on storage times for foods in the refrigerator or pantry the USDA’s FoodKeeper app is available for Android and iOS devices.

Safe Camping

Food Safety While Camping
Jun 29, 2015
Janice Lopez-Munoz, MSIH, USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Hotdogs heating on a campfire.Camping is a great way to spend time with family and friends while taking in the great outdoors. As you set up your tent and pots and pans, don’t neglect your food safety routine just because you’re outdoors. The safety steps you take when cooking at home don’t change when you cook over a camp fire or grill.

campfire-food

Safe Food and Cooking While Camping
If your camping plans will be for more than a day, meal planning becomes more important. Canned goods are safe and shelf-stable. If your menu includes any of these items they can be stored in your pack without a cold source: peanut butter in plastic jars, concentrated juice boxes, canned tuna, canned chicken, canned beef and dried fruits and nuts.

If your meals will need some cooking, having the necessary equipment at your camping area is a must. Make sure you to pack any equipment you will need (e.g. portable stove) and be sure to include a food thermometer. The only way to determine if your meat or poultry is safe to eat is to use a food thermometer.

Serving Hot and Cold Items While Camping
Burgers are always popular while camping, but ground beef may be contaminated Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 (a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria). Using of a food thermometer to check if your patties are cooked to a minimum temperature of 160 °F is critical. If the meal plan includes another popular item, hot dogs, make sure they are steaming hot.

Keeping perishables cool is essential to avoid food becoming unsafe. Bacteria multiply rapidly at warm temperatures, and food can become unsafe if held in the “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F) for more than two hours. If the outdoor temperature is above 90 °F, food can become dangerous after only one hour. That’s why it is essential to pack one or two coolers for your camping trip–one for drinks and snacks and another one for other perishable food. Remember to pack your coolers with ice or frozen gel packs.

Last but not least, don’t forget to pack some disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for your hands and quick cleanups.

If you have any questions, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or visit AskKaren.gov to chat with a Food Safety Specialist. Follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter to receive daily tips and information on recalled food.