USDA Pushing Food Safety Initiative Via Smartphones

The United States Department of Agriculture is hoping that smartphone usage will trickle down to increased food safety awareness thanks to a new mobile effort launched by the USDA.

“Just in time for summer grilling and picnic season,” the agency says, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) 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 Dr. 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.”

Simply put, the USDA is making it possible for mobile users to take “Karen” with them to the grocery store, barbecue grill, farmers market, and even 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?’ or, ‘Should I use a wooden cutting board or a plastic one?'”

To check out Mobile Ask Karen, go to on your mobile device’s browser.