Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Food Safety for Leftovers

By Denise Derrer of Indiana State Board of Animal Health



Grandma is bringing over her famous green bean casserole and Aunt Betty can’t call it Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes smothered in mini marshmallows.  Oh, the variety of food is endless at the holidays.  

Unfortunately, the size of our stomachs and pants is not.  At the end of the feasting you survey what remains.  You just can’t fathom throwing away the extra food from those yummy dishes so you divide them into various storage containers and go about your holiday. 

Fast forward a few days and you’re staring at your bulging refrigerator trying to decide if it’s safe to eat Grammy’s leftover green bean casserole.  Remember, leftovers can be kept for 3 to 5 days, so you think you’re safe.  But wait.  Now you can’t remember which foods were eaten at which get-together—and they spanned the entire weekend. 

This problem can be solved easily and quickly.  Simply take the time to write the date on the outside of all your storage containers. 

The hustle and bustle of preparing for the Thanksgiving feast does not leave any time to sit down, let alone create labels.  Take this time to get your kids involved.  While the adults are busy preparing food over a hot stove, ask the youngsters to make leftovers labels.  HolidayFoodSafety.org has printable labels and the “consume by” date can be written in the blank space.   

Store your leftovers in shallow containers.  That will allow the food to cool quicker, so it gets to a safe storing temperature faster.  And don’t over-load your fridge.  The cool air needs room to circulate around the food.    

When you initially pick your foods, choose those that sit well at room temperature.  Be sure to put the remaining provisions back in the refrigerator within two hours after dinner is served.  Don’t forget, the danger zone for prepared foods is between 40 ˚F and 140 ˚F.  Keeping your fridge at or below 40 ˚F inhibits the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.

Sit back and rest easy this holiday knowing that chilling and storing food properly is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of food borne illness.  

1 comment:

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