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Food poisoning: How long can you safely keep leftovers?By Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-safety/AN01095
- With Mayo Clinic nutritionist
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.read biographyclose window
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor for the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, Katherine is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She is active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition education related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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Food poisoning: How long can you safely keep leftovers?
How long can you safely keep leftovers in the refrigerator?
from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Leftovers can be kept for three to four days in the refrigerator. Be sure to eat them within that time. After that the the risk of food poisoning increases. If you don't think you'll be able to eat leftovers within four days, freeze them immediately.
Food poisoning — also called foodborne illness — is caused by harmful organisms, such as bacteria in contaminated food. Because bacteria typically don't change the taste, smell or look of food, you can't tell whether a food is dangerous to eat. So if you're in doubt about a food's safety, it's best to throw it out.
Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper food handling. To practice food safety, quickly refrigerate perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs — don't let them 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, also should be eaten or refrigerated promptly. Your goal is to minimize the time a food is in the "danger zone" — between 40 and 140 F (4 and 60 C) — when bacteria can quickly multiply.
When you're ready to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave until the internal temperature reaches 165 F (74 C). Because they may not get hot enough, slow cookers and chafing dishes aren't recommended for reheating leftovers.Next question
E. coli: How can I tell if food is contaminated?
- Basics for handling food safely. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Basics_for_Handling_Food_Safely/index.asp. Accessed June 28, 2012.
- Foodborne illness: What consumers need to know. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Foodborne_Illness_What_Consumers_Need_to_Know/index.asp. Accessed June 28, 2012.
- Food safety: Food storage, preparation & handling. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Help/FAQs_Hotline_Preparation/index.asp. Accessed June 28, 2012.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed June 28, 2012.
- Slow cookers and food safety. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/focus_on_slow_cooker_safety/index.asp. Accessed June 28, 2012.