Have you talked to Karen lately? She is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You really should have gotten in touch with her when you had that last cookout…hmmm, unfortunate. No, this isn't a guilt trip. Karen isn't your cousin or friend you've been neglecting; she is an app that is there for your food safety questions and concerns. Last year, the USDA launched "Ask Karen:" a mobile app version of the desktop-based AskKaren.gov. Meant to be "your guide to expert knowledge on handling and storing food safely and preventing food poisoning."

Ask Karen, both on the web and on mobile devices, offers a wealth of already posed questions and searchable topic areas. The app also allows you to type in specific questions as well, where a representative will answer your questions (note: there is no guarantee they will be named "Karen"). Live chat and a phone option (1-888-674-6854) are also offered Monday through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET.   The services are offered in both English and Spanish.

Recently at Nelson-Jameson, we decided to sit down with Karen and check in on some specific information. In a single session we were able to find out how long commercially packaged jerky could be stored (Answer: 12 months), the life expectancy of fresh-sliced deli meat (3-5 days in the refrigerator), and that you can't catch H1N1 from eating fresh fruit and vegetables. So for that inevitable hot summer picnic or barbeque, take Karen along for the ride. It might help you to discern whether to dig into that potato salad or stick to the properly cooked burgers (cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit!).