USDA’s meat, poultry hotline observes 25 years

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently marked the 25th anniversary of its Meat and Poultry Hotline, a toll-free service staffed with food safety experts who provide consumers w ith information about the safe storage, handling and preparation of meat, poultry and egg products.

Susan Conley, hotline manager from 1985-1995 and one of its original home economists, took the very first call from a consumer who asked, “Can prosciutto ham be imported into the United States?”

Since then, the hotline, which is part of FSIS’ Food Safety Education Staff, has received and answered more than two million calls. The hotline is staffed by food safety specialists with backgrounds in home economics, nutrition, culinary arts, food microbiology, food technology and nursing.

The majority of calls come from consumers who want to know how to safely handle their food, especially during a power outage or a foodborne illness outbreak; whether their food products are safe to eat when identified as part of a food recall; and about the inspection of meat, poultry and egg products.

Additionally, the hotline responds to other issues related to the agency’s mission. FSIS is responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. Consumers may speak with a Hotline food safety specialist, in English or Spanish, toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674- 6854), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., EST.

The hotline is open on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., EST, but closed on other federal government holidays. Callers may also listen to more than 50 food safety messages in Spanish, 24 hours a day. Consumers can also “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at

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2010-10-14 digital edition

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