Delicious as they are, any leftovers from Thanksgiving still in your fridge are past their prime.
Aaron Sanders, environmental health specialist with the Bartholomew County Health Department, said leftovers should be eaten, frozen or thrown out within two or three days to eliminate the risk of potentially life-threatening diseases such as botulism or salmonella.
Leftovers need to cool to room temperature before you put them away. To accomplish this, divide to conquer.
“Divide portions into smaller sizes so they can cool faster,” Sanders said. “And refrigerate leftovers promptly within two hours of serving.”
To prevent contamination from other products in the fridge, keep leftovers covered, Sanders said. And always store cold leftovers at or below 41 degrees to prevent bacteria from forming.
And about that cold turkey: It’s a good idea to heat it up. Sanders said reheating cooked leftovers to 165 degrees kills off bacteria that may have grown during storage.
Cooked veggies and pastas are considered potentially hazardous, too.
“Once you cook vegetables and pasta, they absorb water, which allows for bacteria to grow,” Sanders said. “If you don’t keep them refrigerated, they will spoil.”
And if any leftovers languish on the counter for more than four hours, Sanders said they have to go.
For additional information about holiday food safety, visit holidayfoodsafety.org or foodsafety.gov.