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Constituent Update - November 22, 2013

Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Severe Storms and Tornadoes

FSIS issued food safety recommendations for the residents of the Midwest to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to the aftermath of last weekend's tornadoes and the severe weather that has followed. Power outages that often result from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food, but there are steps that can reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS wants those affected to be aware of resources available to them and the measures they can take to keep food safe and protect themselves.

The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Severe_Storms_and_Hurricanes_Guide.pdf. FSIS’ YouTube video “Food Safety During Power Outages,” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vGAZ64T0uE&feature=plcp, also has instructions for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe.

Videos detailing food safety are available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language on FSIS’ YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/USDAFoodSafety. An FSIS Public Service Announcement (PSA) illustrating practical food safety recommendations for handling and consuming foods stored in refrigerators and freezers during and after a power outage are at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/videos-psas/food-safety-public-service-announcements. News organizations and power companies can obtain hard copy (Beta and DVD) versions of the PSA by contacting FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff at (301) 344-4757. 

Consumers with questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at www.AskKaren.gov  or m.AskKaren.gov on a smartphone. Consumers can e-mail, chat with a live representative, or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline directly from the app. To use these features from Mobile Ask Karen, simply choose “Contact Us” from the menu. The live chat option and the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), are available in English and Spanish on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.                                                       .

Export Requirement Updates

The Library of Export Requirements has been updated to reflect changes in export requirements for the following areas:

  • European Union
  • Russia
  • Switzerland
  • Trinidad

Complete information can be found at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/exporting-products.

FSIS Invites You to ‘Ask Karen’ to Your Thanksgiving Meal

With all the preparation that goes into a Thanksgiving feast, many hosts could use an extra assistant to make sure everything goes as planned. This Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season, FSIS is offering help through the “Ask Karen” food safety app and the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline).

“A delicious meal is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving holiday, and the USDA wants your meal to be as safe as it is enjoyable,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “Through the Ask Karen app and the Meat and Poultry Hotline, the USDA can help with food safety questions right when and where you need answers.”  

“Karen” is the face of the Ask Karen food safety app, which contains a searchable database of nearly 1,300 questions submitted by real consumers and answers provided by the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. “Ask Karen” is available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes and Android app stores, or accessed at AskKaren.gov. On weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, the bilingual USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline provides live chat services through the app and also can be reached at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). On Thanksgiving Day, the Hotline will be available by phone from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET, though live chat services will not be provided through the app. For more information, visit http://go.usa.gov/Wfqx.

FSIS Policy Update

FSIS issues notices and directives to protect public health. All notices and directives are available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations. The following policy updates and directives were recently issued:

  • Notice 76-13, Import Residue Sampling
  • Notice 77-13, Restoration of Forfeited Annual Leave 

The FSIS Constituent Update will not publish November 29, 2013. Publishing will resume on December 6, 2013. The staff wishes you a happy, safe and healthy holiday.

Update: FSIS Testing for E. coli

Between June 4, 2012 and Nov. 17, 2013, FSIS’ laboratory services analyzed a total of 4,515 beef trim samples (3,931 domestic and 584 imported), 1,570 routine follow-up samples (1,456 domestic and 114 imported), and 19 non-routine follow-up/traceback samples. 

Sixty-six samples were found to be positive; 32 were domestic trim samples; one was an imported trim sample; 32 were domestic follow-up samples; and one was a non-routine follow-up/traceback sample. To date, two samples have been positive for both O157:H7 and non-O157 STEC, and five samples have been positive for two different non-O157 O-groups.

To review testing results, go to http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/data-collection-and-reports/microbiology/ec/testing-program-for-e-coli-o157h7-and-non-o157-stec.

Get Answers at AskFSIS

AskFSIS is a web-based technology and policy question-and-answer forum on topics such as exporting, labeling, inspection, programs and procedures.

In addition, askFSIS offers Really Simple Syndication feeds that link back to the Q&As. Visit http://askfsis.custhelp.com/ to view recently posted topics.

Follow Us On Twitter

Find food safety information for at-risk people, along with tips and resources to keep consumers and other interested groups informed of the latest agency news and events. Follow FSIS on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USDAFoodSafety.

Also Tweet en Español  

The FSIS Spanish language Twitter feed keeps consumers and other interested communities informed of the latest agency news and events and provides useful food safety tips.

Follow FSIS’ Spanish Twitter account at www.twitter.com/usdafoodsafe_es.