Script: Meet the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service Food Safety at home
podcast series. These podcasts were designed with you in mind - the consumer - who
purchases and prepares meat, poultry and processed meat, egg products
for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging from safe storage, handling,
and preparation of meat, poultry and processed egg products to the importance of keeping
foods safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Kathy Bernard with the Food Safety and
Inspection Service. I’m your host for this segment. With me today is Diane Van, Manager of
the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline.
Hello, Diane, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Kathy. I’m pleased to be here.
Diane, to get things started, would you give us some background on the USDA Meat and
The Hotline is part of the Food Safety Education Staff at USDA’s Food Safety and
Inspection Service, or as we say FSIS.
The Hotline helps consumers to reduce their risk for foodborne illness and Be Food Safe,
specifically by answering their questions – in Spanish as well as English – on the safe
storage, handling and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products.
The Hotline also responds to other issues related to the Agency’s mission. FSIS is
responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and
processed egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged – as required
by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg
Products Inspection Act.
Wow, that’s a mouthful! How long has USDA been providing this service?
The Hotline has been in operation since 1985. It’s staffed by food safety specialists
with backgrounds in home economics, nutrition, food technology and nursing.
Could you tell us more about the types of questions you get?
The majority of callers ask how to safely handle their food, including during power
outages. Other questions deal with what to do with food that has been recalled by a food
manufacturer, foodborne illness, and the inspection of meat, poultry and processed egg
The Hotline has answered more than 2 million calls as part of USDA’s consumer food safety
Over time, the questions to the Hotline have become increasingly more sophisticated. Now,
callers frequently know the names of bacteria many people had never heard of 10 to 20
From novice cooks wondering how long to keep a turkey in the freezer to more experienced
food-handlers asking about additives, residues, and foodborne bacteria, Hotline food
safety specialists have heard it all!
In 2002, the Hotline began extending its service to callers whose first language is
Spanish. By using the prompts, callers are connected to a Spanish-speaking food safety
specialist who can answer their questions.
Callers may also listen to recorded food safety messages in Spanish 24 hours a day.
Our listeners will be more interested to know that the Hotline hours of operation are
Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
Callers can listen to more than 50 recorded food safety messages, available 24 hours a day
in English and Spanish. Or they may call during operation hours and speak to a food safety
I seem to remember the Hotline being open on Thanksgiving Day to assist callers with
questions about handling and preparing the big bird. Is that right?
Yes, you remember correctly – the Hotline has traditionally been open Thanksgiving Day
from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern time. Please give us a call!
You can learn more about food safety by visiting the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.
That's www.fsis.usda.gov. Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative "Ask Karen" at
Or visit our
virtual representative “Ask Karen” at
AskKaren represents another way FSIS reaches out to consumers in support of its public
health mission to ensure the safety and security of America’s food supply.
Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, AskKaren prompts consumers to type food safety questions directly into an extensive
database that provides instant responses to more than 1500 questions.
Let’s not forget to give the toll-free number!
Consumers may call USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-MPHotline. That’s
By the way, Diane, how long can you keep a turkey in the freezer?
12 months for best quality, but it will stay safe in the freezer indefinitely.
Well, that’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Diane Van, Manager of the USDA Meat
and Poultry Hotline.
Thank you so much, Diane, for helping me introduce the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline to
our listeners today. I’m Kathy Bernard, and I’d like to thank you for joining us for this
episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Well, that's all for this time. Thanks for joining us today for another episode of
food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline
at 1-888-MPHotline. That's 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from our virtual representative
"Ask Karen" at askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.
March 16, 2009