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How long is it safe to eat leftovers?



When it comes to leftovers I'm never sure how long I can eat before I should probably throw it. In some cases I've opened containers of food I've had for over a week, and they looked and smelled pretty good, but I could not help but feel a little uncomfortable considering how long they sat there. On the other hand, after two days in the fridge, I saw food start to stink and smell.

Remains lighten my life for so many reasons – from cutting down on kitchen time to minimizing the amount of food waste I create ̵

1; but I really, really do not * want * them make me sick. So I asked food safety experts how to stay on the safe side. It turns out that you can not just look at leftovers and know if they are safe to eat or not, as germs growing on foods are often invisible to the naked eye (except, of course, mold). But there are a few things you can do to find out if you can still eat or are better off throwing it away. There are also some ways to store leftovers to maximize their lifespan.

How long remnants really hold. According to FDA leftovers should normally only be kept in the refrigerator for up to four days (Womp Womp). Randy Worobo, Ph.D., professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, tells SELF that they can potentially survive for up to a week, depending on how they are handled. (Food stored in the freezer, however, may have an indefinite life .)

If you've ever tasted dubious leftovers and were perfectly fine, then you should be lucky. Whether or not you've gotten sick after eating very old foods has nothing to do with your "iron stomach" and everything about whether or not these foods contained bacteria that could or could not cause a food-borne illness, Worobo says. Regarding the types of pathogens that may be present in your food, he says that Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria are most common. If you ate super-old food leftovers and did not get sick, it's likely that your food did not contain any pathogens, or the amount was just too low to make you sick. Worobo explains that the number of microorganisms that make you sick varies dramatically – for example, Norovirus requires 1 to 10 microorganisms, while over 100,000 may take you to contract Salmonella.

So how can you tell if your pizza is one week old? has dangerous bacteria on it or not? You can not, because the pathogens that could make you sick are invisible to the naked eye, says Vorobo. It could be dangerous to eat old food, even if it looks pretty good. That's why it's better to use time as a frame of reference if you do not want to take the risk, he says. And if there's something visible mold, of course, it's best to throw it away. (Just because something is rotten or moldy does not necessarily mean that you have a food-borne illness, Worobo says, but in that case, it's best to play it safe rather than excuse it.)

Whole Honestly and maybe I'll hex myself here: I've eaten leftovers that I've had many * many * times for over a week, and I've never gotten sick so I asked Worobo why that might be so. He says that the risk of getting left over from food leftovers is actually quite low, provided you apply the right food handling methods (more on that later). If your food does not contain any dangerous pathogens, it will never be, unless it is eventually introduced.

"There is no perfect idea of ​​bacteria," he jokes. As long as you ensure that cross-contamination is avoided and food is properly handled so that existing pathogens can not multiply in dangerous amounts, leftovers may be stable for up to a week in some cases. However, after this time, the risk is no longer worthwhile, especially for very young children, older adults, people with autoimmune diseases, pregnant women, people with conditions such as diabetes and HIV / AIDS and people undergoing cancer treatment. because they are more likely to get a much smaller amount of bacteria.

One exception to this rule is seafood, says Philip Tierno, Ph.D., clinical professor in the Departments of Microbiology and Pathology at the NYU Langone Medical Center. "The most contaminated food product is generally seafood, which easily and quickly disintegrates," he explains. "Fish with a smell is broken down and bacteria are increasing in the population." Anyone who has eaten seafood knows how fast it can go from a delicious to an acidic odor, and FDA recommends keeping fresh seafood leftovers for no longer than one to two days (on the other hand smoked fish) If you're wondering why boiled leftovers are not kept in the fridge for as long as the raw ingredients, then they are not durable if they're packaged in an airtight container, says Worobo. Bacteria develop faster in cooked foods for a handful of reasons. "Microorganisms need water, the right temperature, and the right acid [to multiply] So if you take a cake mix and add water and eggs, you'll provide the nutrients for the pathogens."

How to keep your leftovers as fresh and safe as possible

Listen, leftovers are delicious and convenient, and you want to make sure that you do everything they can to keep them fresh and safe for as long as possible How to do this:

First, make sure residues are not stored for more than two hours at room temperature. There is a risk of food entering the Hazard Zone. – between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit – an environment where microbes can grow much faster, says Tierno. And if you are in a particularly hot place, do not leave out any leftovers for more than an hour before transferring them to the refrigerator (and make sure your refrigerator has cooled to just under 40 degrees F, which is what it should normally be set). If you can not put any leftovers in a refrigerator before that time has passed – maybe because you're traveling for the day and carry them around in your bag – it's safest for him to just throw them away.

This two-hour rule is the main reason why it can be more risky to store leftovers from a restaurant than food you cook at home, says Vorobo. The longer food is stored at room temperature, the more likely it is that potentially dangerous bacteria will develop. If you're in a restaurant or ordering a delivery, you may not be able to put food in the fridge fast enough. However, if you can store them in the refrigerator within two hours and the restaurant they come from uses the right methods of dealing with food, your risks are pretty much the same as with home-cooked foods, says Worobo. "But if the restaurant has bad practices, the chances of getting sick are higher," he explains. Unfortunately, you can not always see what's going on in the kitchen, so there is always a certain unknown risk when eating in the kitchen.

There's no danger of storing leftovers in the original take-out containers, but they probably last longer and retain their flavor and texture better when sealed airtight, says Worobo. 19659018] Tierno says that it is common to leave residues at room temperature until they are completely cooled, but that this is a mistake. The longer foods are spent at room temperature, the greater the chance that bacteria will grow, he explains. Instead, it is better, according to Tierno, to put leftovers in the fridge, even when they are still warm. He says the temperature of the food will go down much faster this way – usually in just one hour. The warm food can warm the temperature of your refrigerator for a short time, but it says it should cool down in no time, and it never gets warm enough to endanger your other foods. If possible, place the containers in the refrigerator to increase the air circulation.

To shorten the cooling time, first fill the food into a smaller, airtight container. Unless noticed, it's important to cool leftovers as quickly as possible to eat them safely. "If you put a gallon container in the fridge, it will take more than a day for it to cool down enough, and the pathogens can actively grow all the time," Worobo explains. Instead, he suggests making the cooling process easier by packing food in small, flat containers and leaving it, if possible, uncovered in the refrigerator with plenty of room to increase circulation. Cover everything once it has cooled completely, preferably with an airtight lid to keep food fresh longer.

Avoid cross-contamination of your food. Cross contamination is one of the biggest mistakes that consumers make when packing leftovers, says Worobo. (For example, safe foods with no pathogens can be dangerous.) Take special care not to scoop spoons that may be touching raw food that may be contaminated (eg, poultry). Instead, always use clean storage jars and serving spoons to ensure that no pathogens return to already cooked foods.

Label everything so that you know exactly how long you have it. Tierno says that everything you have done in the unit The refrigerator should be labeled so you know exactly how long you have been using it. As mentioned earlier, many potentially dangerous microbes are invisible to the naked eye, so something can look good if they are not. If you do not go out with your food, you might eat something that seems okay, but it is not. Save the stress by labeling the containers with the date you stored them.

Make sure your refrigerator is at the right temperature. According to Worobo, your refrigerator should always be kept at 40 to 45 degrees Celsius, to ensure the quality of your food, but most consumers have their refrigerators at 50 degrees Fahrenheit and do not even notice it. If your leftovers have made you ill lately, it may have something to do with how cold your refrigerator is (or not). To make sure your fridge is not too hot, it recommends investing in a refrigerator thermometer like this unless it's already equipped with one.

Heat the leftovers to 165 degrees before consumption. [19659028] "Proper warming can protect you from pathogens that you can not see with the naked eye," Worobo explains. If there are any pathogens in your food, they are killed by heating to that temperature, he says. This is especially important as you approach this week-long brand. According to FDA residues should be heated to at least 40 ° C to ensure that they are safe. Unfortunately, there is no good way to set an eyeball when your food is at the right temperature. Worobo therefore recommends always using a thermometer .

For best results, recommend the FDA ] Cover the leftovers with a microwaveable lid or plastic wrap, make sure there is a small vent to allow steam to escape, and turn the food to Half (and stir while you're at it). The more evenly the dish warms, the better the chance that you can bring every inch to the right temperature so it can be eaten safely.

Of course, not all leftovers are meant to be eaten hot, like chicken lettuce, for example. In that case, it's even more important to eat or to throw within three or four days, says Vorobo.

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