In my job as a bilingual technical information specialist with the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline, one of my responsibilities is to answer food safety questions from callers who speak Spanish. Since 2002, when we started offering our hotline services in Spanish, we’ve learned that the members of our Hispanic communities across the country are increasingly interested in getting advice from food safety experts.
The Hotline is open Monday thru Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EDT). If you happen to call after hours, you can listen to recorded food safety messages in English and Spanish. But, what do you do if you have a food safety question that just can’t wait? What if it’s 2:00 a.m.?
Pregúntele a Karen is a free online service that provides consumers with answers in Spanish to over 1,200 questions about food safety – questions like:
- How do I thaw a whole chicken safely?
- If my hamburgers are still pink inside, are they safe?
- If the leftovers stayed out on the counter all night, are they safe to eat?
With Pregúntele a Karen, all you need to do is type a question, keyword, or phrase, and then click Ask. (Or you can cheat and look at the answers at the end of this blog.) The great thing about both PregunteleaKaren.gov and AskKaren.gov is that they’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On our Web site, FSIS En Español, we provide many other resources for food safety information in Spanish, which are also available 24/7:
Now, for the answers to those questions (with links to our fact sheets – in Spanish):
- Chicken: USDA recommends three safe ways to defrost chicken: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave (not on the counter). Remember to cook it immediately after thawing with cold water or in the microwave. Fact sheet: The Big Thaw
- Hamburgers: The only way to tell whether a hamburger is done is to use a meat thermometer. Fact sheet: Is It Done Yet?
- Leftovers: Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. Fact sheet: Basics for Handling Food Safely
How can you make sure that eggs are safe when you’re eating out, especially with all of the egg recalls in the news?
According to the CDC, public health officials have identified 26 restaurants or “event clusters” where more than one ill person with Salmonella Enteritidis has eaten (that’s the type of Salmonella associated with the current egg recalls).
Some people, such as children, pregnant women, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems or debilitating illnesses, are at higher risk for a Salmonella infection and need to be particularly careful when eating out.
Here are some practical things that you can do to keep you and your family safe:
- Always ask your server whether the food contains raw or undercooked eggs. If so, find out if the eggs are pasteurized. If not, order something else. Some foods that may contain raw or undercooked eggs include:
- Hollandaise sauce
- Caesar salad dressing
- Cold soufflés, chiffons, or mousses
- Ice cream
- Meringue-topped pies
- Certain ethnic dishes, such as Japanese sukiyaki or Korean bibimbap.
- If you order cooked eggs, make sure that they’re thoroughly cooked. Scrambled eggs should be firm, not runny. Fried, poached, boiled, or baked eggs should have firm whites and yolks.
- Avoid eating eggs at a buffet, since the eggs may be undercooked or may have been at room temperature for too long.
- If you plan to save leftovers to eat later, refrigerate egg dishes as soon as possible – always within two hours (or one hour if it’s a hot day).
If you think that you have become ill from eating recalled eggs, contact your health care provider. For more information, see Eggs and Egg Products.
With the ongoing reopening of Gulf fisheries, fishermen are going back to work and Americans can confidently and safely enjoy Gulf seafood again.
Consumers need to know that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe and fishermen need to be able to sell their products with confidence. That’s why there’s a comprehensive, coordinated, and multi-agency program to ensure the safety of Gulf Coast seafood. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working with other Federal agencies and state officials to closely monitor the situation and its potential impact on the safety of seafood.
Seafood from open waters is safe to eat. Here are the facts:
- Every seafood sample from reopened waters has passed testing.
- When waters were impacted by oil or at risk of being impacted by oil, they were closed to fisherman.
- Areas considered for reopening must be free of oil before testing even starts.
- Dispersants were not applied in areas that are opened for fishing, and tests of reopened waters do not show the presence of any dispersants.
- FDA and NOAA test samples for oil and dispersants, and every sample from reopened waters has passed those tests.
Here are more resources to get the latest information on seafood safety:
- FDA's Role In Seafood Safety
- Key Questions and Answers
- Seafood Safety and Dispersants Fact Sheet
- Reopening of Closed Waters Information by State
- NOAA’s Role in Seafood Safety
- NOAA, FDA, and Gulf Coast State Officials Affirm Commitment to Ensuring Safety of Gulf Coast Seafood
- Assessing Gulf Coast Seafood