Headed to a Picnic During Memorial Day? Take Karen with You

May 27, 2011, 6:19 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Ask Karen, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s virtual safety adviser, now fits into a back pocket. In time for Memorial Day weekend and upcoming summer outings, the USDA has launched Mobile Ask Karen,which contains the same data as her desk-top version—nearly 1,500 questions and answers on food safety. (Q: “How should I store fresh-cut fruits and vegetables?” A: “…avoid leaving cut, peeled and cooked fruit and vegetables at room temperature for more than two hours.")

Mobile Ask Karen’s food safety Q&A library is currently available on an iPhone, iPad or Android smart phone. Weekday users can also use the app for live chats or to speak to an actual operator at the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline.

"Hopefully, by sending Karen out to picnics, farmers markets, and backyard cookouts via people's smart phones, she'll be able to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses that usually increase in the summer months,” says Diane Van, the hotline’s manager.

Before the picnic, barbecue or fish fry, access Mobile Ask Karen, by going to m.AskKaren.gov on a mobile phone browser or go to FoodSafety.gov to get the QR code to scan into your iPhone or iPad, or Android-powered device.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.