USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline agents are heating things up by answering your food safety questions! Hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness by answering calls on all sorts of food safety topics.
As a technical information specialist on the hotline, the first question consumers usually ask is “Are you a real person?” The answer is “Yes!” The hotline has real, live people who single-handedly answer every one of your food safety questions. In fact, since the start of the hotline in 1985, more than 3 million calls from the public have been answered.
Summer is filled with tons of activities, festivals, concerts and most importantly, food! The hotline wants to make sure your summer is free from foodborne illness. When it comes to questions, we’ve probably heard them all. Here are a few of the most popular questions answered during summer:
• I want to marinate my meat before I grill. I can just leave it on the counter while it’s marinating, right? No, marinating should be done in the refrigerator for safety.
• Is it true that my hamburger is done when it turns mostly brown on the inside and the juices run clear? Your burger is only safe when it has reached an internal temperature of 160°F, as measured by a food thermometer.
• I’m going to a park to grill and won’t have access to running water. What should I use to clean my hands and utensils? Bring water and soap for preparation and cleaning, or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes.
• I’m going to a friend’s for a barbeque. I want to bring something to grill there. Is it safe to partially cook meat or poultry to finish grilling later? Never brown or partially cook meat or poultry to refrigerate and finish later because any bacteria present would not have been destroyed.
• Is it OK to refrigerate or freeze leftover cooked hamburgers? If it’s refrigerated promptly after cooking — within two hours, or one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F — it can be safely refrigerated or frozen.
Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.