Keep Your Leftovers from Making You Sick

The Thanksgiving feast is beautifully displayed upon the table. Your family and friends are gathered around, ready to cut into the turkey. As everyone admires the buffet, you know there will be leftovers of the main dish, the many sides and delicious desserts. 

How can you ensure that the leftovers not only taste great the next few days, but also are safe for your visitors to consume?

Beware the Leftovers

Each year, about 48 million people are hospitalized because of foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many food poisoning incidents can be prevented with simple food safety precautions. suggests:

  • Put away leftovers within two hours. Divide into smaller portions and place in shallow containers to ensure food cools quickly. Heat gives bacteria a chance to multiply.
  • Food does not have to cool to room temperature before it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Letting food cool first allows bacteria time to grow. 
  • Leftovers can be kept safely refrigerated up to four days. This means you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving. 
  • Leftovers can be frozen safely up to 2-6 months. 
  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. 

Need a reminder? You can download the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper app, which will trigger a reminder on your smartphone calendar. It also can alert you to food recalls and storage tips for more than 600 items. 

Reheat your Treats Properly

The key to food safety, even food that has been stored properly, to avoid illness: Reheat food to temperatures that will kill any bacteria. 

  • Reheat liquids, like sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil. 
  • Foods warmed in a microwave should be rotated and stirred to ensure even heating. 
  • Cover foods in the microwave but allow the cover space to vent. The hot steam will kill bacteria and ensure the foods are evenly reheated.

Prevent Burns from Hot Food

Only adults should handle reheated foods. Prevent burning yourself or children with these tips:

  • Hold hot containers with two hands and wear mitts/gloves to avoid burns from splashing/spills.
  • Don’t place within reach of small children or near the edge of a table to avoid children pulling onto themselves.
  • Let food cool before serving or feeding to small children. Test food for hotness before serving to small children.

Enjoy your stuffing waffles, pie for breakfast and those delectable turkey sandwiches!

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