Summer food safety: Get it to go

DO YOU WORRY about egg salad going bad on hot days? Or how long fried chicken can survive out of the fridge? Now you can ask “Karen,” the virtual food safety representative on the smartphone app from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service ( She can instantly answer questions about proper handling, storage and preparation to help prevent the foodborne illnesses that rise during the summer months.

This is an extension of the government’s Ask Karen website and now that it’s mobile, even more people will be able to access the information they need to keep their food safe this summer.

Can mayonnaise in egg salad make you sick when it’s warm out? Karen says people often think mayo is the cause of foodborne illness from chilled foods such as chicken, tuna and egg salad or on deli-style sandwiches. But since mayonnaise
is made with acid (vinegar or lemon juice), it tends to prevent bacterial growth. Usually it’s the meat, poultry, fish or eggs in a sandwich left unrefrigerated for more than two hours that becomes the medium for bacteria to grow.

What about leftover fried chicken? According to Karen, food left out of the fridge for more than two hours may not be safe to eat. At temperatures above 90 F, food shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour. If you have any doubts, throw it out.

When you’ll be in the great outdoors and a cooler chest isn’t an option, Karen suggests packing such items as fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, dried meats, dried cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers and bottled drinks.

For those backyard barbecue quandaries or campground cooking dilemmas, Karen is available 24/7 and can provide nearly 1,500 answers by topic or product. You can also submit questions via chat and email. To start using Mobile Ask Karen now, go to on your phone’s browser. The app is currently optimized for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices.


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