Avoid food poisoning: Keep those leftovers safe to eat


Leftovers should not be kept more than four days in the fridge; freeze them instead. — TNS

From leftovers for your lunch to planning a meal for family and friends, keeping food safe is important.

Food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, is caused by harmful germs, such as bacteria, in contaminated food.

Because bacteria typically doesn’t change the taste, smell or look of food, you can’t tell whether it’s dangerous to eat.

So, if in doubt, throw it out.

Fortunately, proper cooking and food handling can prevent most cases of food poisoning.

To practise food safety:

  • Quickly refrigerate perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.
  • Don’t let food sit more than two hours at typical room temperature, or more than one hour at temperatures above 90°F (32°C).
  • Uncooked foods, such as cold salads or sandwiches, should be eaten or refrigerated promptly.

Your goal is to reduce the time a food is in the “danger zone” – between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) – when bacteria can quickly grow.

If you’re going on a picnic or hosting a cookout, you should:

  • Keep cold foods in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs until ready to serve.
  • Consider resting a container or plate of cold items on a bed or bowl of ice to preserve quality and safety.
  • Have a separate cooler for drinks as this cooler will be opened more frequently, which will affect the temperature.

While you shouldn’t use slow cookers to reheat food, you can use them to maintain the temperature of foods that are already hot.

Keep your food at or above 140°F (60°C), usually on a low-temperature setting.

This is an option when you’re feeding a large group and need to keep hamburgers or meat from the grill hot.

Leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator.

After that, the risk of food poisoning increases.

If you don’t think you’ll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately.

When ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove or in a conventional oven or microwave until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). – By Dana Sparks/Mayo Clinic News Network/Tribune News Service

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