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Heating Things Up: The Meat and Poultry Hotline’s Popular Summer Questions

It is summertime and the USDA’s 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 of foodborne illness. Explore all the ways you can reach us to ask your food safety questions!

When it comes to questions, we’ve probably heard them all. Here are a few of the most popular questions answered during summer time:

  • 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 (71°C) 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/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 is refrigerated promptly after cooking (within 2 hours; 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F (32.2°C)), 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. ET, or email or chat at

For advice on the safe handling of foods other than meat and poultry, call the Food and Drug Administration’s Food and Cosmetic Information Center. You can call the Center Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET at 1-888-723-3366.

Posted in: Food SafetyTagged: Summer | Food Prep