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Ask Karen

The great thing about traveling so much is catching up on my reading during a long flight.

In the produce industry, we have many trade publications. We have newspapers like The Packer and The Produce News, and magazines like Supermarket News, Progressive Grocer and California Farmer. We even have an online video resource called And I definitely get funny looks on the airplane when I am reading Valley Potato Grower Magazine, Produce Business and Fresh Cut.

When I was thumbing through a recent edition of Supermarket News, a headline caught my eye: “Consumers ‘Ask Karen’ About Food Safety.”

Turns out “Ask Karen” is the food safety website created in 2004 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for consumers to ask any food safety question they may have.

If you can’t find the answer to your food safety question in their FAQs, you can email your questions and wait for a response, or you can “live chat” with an representative. They even launched a mobile site for Android phones and now have a mobile website:

Surprisingly, some of the FAQs aren’t about produce. Most of them are about thawing meat, code dates versus use by dates and refrigeration.

But what a great resource to have when you need a food safety question answered. One question you may have is, “After last summer’s cantaloupe listeria outbreak in Colorado, are cantaloupes safe to consume and should I wash them before cutting and consuming?” The answer is YES, they are safe to eat and YES you should wash cantaloupes thoroughly before cutting and consuming.

Although, one thing is for sure—it won’t be this Karen answering your food safety questions on!

Speaking of websites, my company just relaunched our website,, in celebration of our 50th anniversary! Be sure to check it out, as it is filled with recipes, photos, information, and much more.



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