These days we hear a lot about government services that don’t work well. Whether it’s a tale of government waste or an expose of federal employees who don’t work hard, the bad stories make news. But there are a government agencies (and employees) doing good work. Here is one small example in an important area – food safety.
If you’re like me, you don’t think about asking the federal government for help with food safety in your kitchen. Sure I know about government inspection of meat and other foods, but when it comes to what happens in my own kitchen, I figured that I’m on my own. Wrong.
Late Monday afternoon, I had no plan for dinner, which meant that I had to go to plan B – the hunt for leftovers. When I checked the refrigerator for inspiration and ingredients. I found a nice piece of grilled swordfish from Friday that we hadn’t had the chance to eat over the weekend. I wondered, “Can we eat this?”
As the daughter of a biochemist-mother, I’m always concerned about food-borne illness. Being wary of food poisoning and perhaps a bit paranoid about making others sick, my first reaction was to ditch the fish and move onto another dinner plan.
But I also hate to waste food. So I googled “how long to keep swordfish” and came upon “Ask Karen”, a wonderful online chat service from the U.S. Dept of Agriculture Food Safety & Information Service. The service answers food safety questions Monday through Friday 10 am – 4 pm EDT.
In minutes “Karen” told me by chat that I could serve the swordfish for 3-4 days. Then I asked if it was OK to serve cold and “she” responded yes, as long as those eating it would not be pregnant or immune-compromised. I decided to serve the swordfish in a pasta dish because I also had leftover pasta sauce, but was impressed that the chat yielded such specific guidance
My follow-up to the chat was a quick-and-easy swordfish pasta that we enjoyed on Monday evening. I’ve bookmarked the site and, at least during the hours it is open, I now have another resource (besides my own mother) for questions about food safety.