As USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline turns 30 this month, the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is highlighting some of its accomplishments.

According to USDA, hotline experts keep the public safe from foodborne illness when they answer calls on all sorts of food safety topics. Experts field questions from consumers on topics such as safe cooking temperatures and recalls. Since 1985, more than 3 million calls have been handled by the hotline.

USDA says many of the questions consumers have are related to food safety basics. The top five questions received by the Hotline over the years include:

How long can I keep meat in the refrigerator?

How long will cooked food stay safe in the refrigerator?

Is food safe if left out overnight?

How long can I keep a turkey (or any food) in the freezer?

What is the safe internal temperature for cooking meat and poultry?

In 1985 when the hotline started, consumers were only able to contact representatives through the phone. In later years as more consumers became connected online through the internet, today consumers can query the hotline through live chat, email, and through the 'Ask Karen' smartphone application.

"When the Hotline started, the toll-free phone service was the most up-to date method of reaching consumers; now we communicate with them across all sorts of media," said Tina Hanes, hotline manager and food safety technical information specialist. "We will continue to provide food safety answers to customers' questions wherever the future leads us."

Even with all of the food safety resources available to consumers today, USDA says the Meat and Poultry Hotline remains a highly relevant tool.

 "It means a lot to consumers that they can call a toll-free phone number and speak to a real live person," said Marianne Gravely, a 27-year hotline veteran. "Sometimes there are questions and situations that are not easily answered by e-mail or searching the web. That's why we're here."