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. Im 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. Im pleased to be here.
Diane, to get things started, would you give us some background on the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline?
The Hotline is part of the Food Safety Education Staff at USDAs 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 Agencys mission. FSIS is responsible for ensuring that the nations 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, thats a mouthful! How long has USDA been providing this service?
The Hotline has been in operation since 1985. Its 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 products.
The Hotline has answered more than 2 million calls as part of USDAs consumer food safety education efforts.
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 years ago.
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 specialist.
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.gov. AskKaren represents another way FSIS reaches out to consumers in support of its public health mission to ensure the safety and security of Americas 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.
Lets not forget to give the toll-free number!
Consumers may call USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-MPHotline. Thats 1-888-674-6854.
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, thats it for this week. Weve 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. Im Kathy Bernard, and Id 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
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your comments to
Thanks for tuning in.