WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new updates to its popular FoodKeeper application, which will increase the app’s food safety features while empowering more consumers help reduce food waste in the U.S. The app has been updated to include information in Spanish and Portuguese, making it easier for Spanish and Portuguese speakers to use its storage recommendations for 400 plus items covered by the tool, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood and more. The next planned update, coming in September, will allow the app to alert users of food recalls and include instructional videos on proper handling and storage of food.
In the update posted to the Google Play and iTunes stores, users will find a new setting menu offering language options and the ability to display temperatures, weights and measures in Imperial or Metric units. In addition, the app now better syncs with smartphone and tablet calendars to improve its push notification function, which notifies users when food may be approaching spoilage.
“The FoodKeeper app is a very handy and easy tool to use, and it reflects USDA’s commitment to provide consumers with information and knowledge so they can make informed decisions,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This app empowers people to help meet our nation’s food waste reduction goals, and it also links to our virtual food safety resources that answer common questions about how to safely handle, prepare and store foods. Adding food recall alerts to the app’s capabilities makes the FoodKeeper a top-notch tool for consumer engagement and protection.”
The FoodKeeper app was developed by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in partnership with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, as a tool to help reduce food waste by sharing storage methods that extend the shelf life of the foods and beverages in American homes. Since it was launched in April 2015, it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
“These updates to the FoodKeeper are just one more example of FSIS’ commitment to serving diverse communities,” said Deputy Under Secretary of Food Safety Al Almanza. “We want to make sure the valuable information the application offers is available to as many Americans as possible, which is why we are now offering it in additional languages. With information on more than 400 types of food, this app is helpful to any type of consumer, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t already to download and begin using the FoodKeeper tool.”
With the FoodKeeper application, each user can:
• Find specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, depending on the nature of the product;
• Get cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products;
• Note in their device’s calendar when products were purchased and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date;
• Submit a question to USDA using the ‘Ask Karen’ feature of the application. ‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products; and
• Submit items not included in the database for consideration in future updates.
For those that do not have access to a smartphone, the FoodKeeper app can also be accessed at FoodSafety.gov/FoodKeeper.
Throughout July, at the height of summer grilling season, USDA is recognizing improvements made to the U.S. food safety system during the Obama Administration, which are some of the most significant updates made since the 1950s. USDA’s modernization efforts are bringing down the number of foodborne illnesses in USDA-regulated products. Advanced testing methods, greater focus on mislabeling, and more rigorous scientific processes are building a stronger overall safety net to detect pathogens and mislabeled product before they reach consumers, leading to a 12 percent drop in foodborne illness associated with meat, poultry and processed egg products from 2009 to 2015. New consumer-facing tools, like the FoodKeeper app, allow Americans to further guard themselves and their family against foodborne illnesses. More information about these efforts can be found on USDA’s Medium page at http://bit.ly/results-ch7.