BEWARE OF THIS: How long can leftover food stay in the refrigerator?

It’s important to keep food safe, whether it’s leftovers from lunch or preparations for a meal with family and friends. The food poisoningalso known as foodborne illness, is caused by contamination of food by microbes, such as bacteria.

Since bacteria don’t usually change the taste, smell, or appearance of food, you can’t tell if something is dangerous to eat, either. Therefore, in case of doubt, discard the food.

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Fortunately, most cases of food poisoning can be prevented with proper handling and cooking of food.

Practice the following food safety rules:

  • Refrigerate all perishable foods promptlysuch as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Do not let food spend more than two hours at room temperatureor more than one hour at temperatures above 32°C (90°F).
  • raw foodlike cold salads or sandwiches, should also be eaten or refrigerated soon.

The goal is to reduce the time a food spends in the «danger zone,» which is 40°F (4.5°C) to 140°F (60°C) and when bacteria grow rapidly.

If you’re going on a picnic or grilling, do the following:

  • keep food cold inside a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs until serving time.
  • In order to preserve the quality of the food and keep it safeplace the bowl or plate of cold food on a bed of ice or in a bowl of ice.
  • Have a separate cooler for drinksbecause that one will open more often and the temperature can change.

For more tips, visit Handling Food Safely While Eating Outdoors (Safe Handling of Foods for Eating Out) from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Although you shouldn’t use a slow cooker to reheat food, you can use it to maintain the temperature of food that’s already hot. Keep food at a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°F), which generally corresponds to the low temperature setting.

Suggestion: This option is good when you have to feed a large group and you need to keep hamburgers or meat warm after grilling.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three to four days. After that time, the risk of food poisoning increases. If you don’t think you’ll be able to use leftovers within four days, then freeze them right away.

When it’s time to eat leftovers, reheat them on the stovetop, in a traditional oven, or in a microwave until they reach an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C).