There’s an app for most anything. Now there’s one for consumers’ food safety questions. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is launching Mobile Ask Karen, a Web-based smartphone application that instantly answers food safety questions. The app is a mobile version of the existing Ask Karen site, a virtual food safety representative who offers advice about properly handling, storing and preparing food to prevent illness.

“FSIS has a wealth of tips and useful information to help as you shop, prepare and store food,” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen. “People are using mobile devices more and more to get quick information, so we’ve adapted our tools, allowing more people to get food safety messages faster. Now, people can ‘Ask Karen’ right away when they need food safety information, without being tethered to a computer.”

In mobile format, people can take “Karen” with them to the grocery store, barbecue grill, farmers market and into the kitchen. Anywhere mobile devices can access the Internet, at any time of day consumers can get immediate answers to questions such as, “Is food safe if left out overnight?”

In a continuing effort to engage consumers and encourage new behaviors when buying food or cooking at home, the agency created Mobile Ask Karen to make food safety information more accessible. Just like using Ask Karen from a desktop or laptop computer, consumers can search for nearly 1,500 answers by topic or by product, chat with a live representative, or e-mail or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-MPHotline). The app is available for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

Regarding food safety, President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group developed three core principles to help guide U.S. efforts food safety, including: prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response and recovery.

In past two months, USDA announced two additional measures to safeguard the public from foodborne illnesses. In March, USDA announced revised and new performance standards aimed at reducing the prevalence of Salmonella and Campylobacter in young chickens and turkeys. In April, USDA proposed a new requirement for the meat and poultry industry called “test and hold”, which allows USDA to hold products from commerce until test results for harmful substances are received.

To start using Mobile Ask Karen now, go to on your phone’s browser.

Source: USDA