‘Dishes Can Wait, But Food Can’t’: How Long the Thanksgiving Leftovers Can Stop


The holidays are known for quality time with family, traditional recipes and a food poisoning outbreak is not fun if you don’t refrigerate your leftovers quickly.

According to the CDC, food poisoning is most likely caused by Clostridium perfringens bacteria in November and December.

Why? Bacteria grow on food left at room temperature and most outbreaks are associated with turkey and roast beef.

“Food-borne illnesses are not funny,” said Lisa Yakas, senior project manager at NSF International.

Symptoms of food poisoning can appear 6 to 24 hours after eating and can ruin your vacation time. Here’s how to avoid it:

How long should the Thanksgiving diet last? Less than 2 hours

The rest should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. So after you finish your holiday meal, quitting food should be a priority, says Yakas.

“The dishes can wait, but the food can’t,” he says.

When you’re putting leftovers, take the time to divide them into smaller containers, preferably airtight, Yakas says.

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Putting large quantities of food in the refrigerator or freezer is ineffective because it takes a long time to cool the food, Yakas says.

How long is a cooked turkey good? Just a few days, unless it’s frozen

After putting the leftovers in the refrigerator, you only have a few days to eat them before they become a safety hazard.

If stored in the refrigerator, the rest is fine for three to four days. If they are stored in the freezer, it is three to four months.

Yakas recommends that when you abandon a food it is best to label it with its expiration date, which will help you keep track of what is no longer safe to eat.

This is especially true when it comes to the food you put in the freezer, because it can be difficult to remember how many months of food are stored in the future.

At what temperature should your food be? 165 degrees

Keeping leftovers intact will not keep you healthy if you don’t cook the food properly the first time.

There is only one number to remember whether you are cooking the food for the first time or reheating it: 165 degrees.

The CDC recommends heating all the leftovers to 165 degrees before eating.

Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: agilbert@usatoday.com.

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