Do you give leftover food the sniff test to see if it is still safe to eat? Can you really rely on this method to keep your family healthy?
In a difficult economy, everyone is trying to cut expenses every way that they can. Reducing the grocery budget is a necessity right now for most people, but you do not want to take chances with leftovers that could make your family very sick. Knowing how to safely store leftovers and when to throw them out could prevent suffering and expensive medical bills for your family.
The nose knows?
No, actually it doesn’t. The Partnership for Food Safety Education tells us that the bacteria that really make people sick are usually not discernable by taste or smell. So, just because it smells OK, doesn’t mean it is.
There are important things to remember when storing leftovers. They need to be stored promptly, and it is OK to put hot food in the refrigerator. Your refrigerator should be set below 40 degrees, because the temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees allow bacteria to grow rapidly. When the food is reheated, it should be uniformly reheated to 165 degrees, stirring and rotating to avoid any cold spots that could harbor bacteria.
When in doubt
Throw food out within three or four days in the fridge. You can freeze the food, and it is not a problem. If you are storing packages of raw meat, it should really only be left in the refrigerator 1-2 days maximum before being frozen. The worst offenders of breaking the rules in this area are the elderly. It is so important for those who care for them to stress the importance of these rules, following up by checking the refrigerator for potentially dangerous items. A label system could even be employed to be sure there is no doubt when the food was refrigerated.
As published in my cooking column on the Knoxville Examiner.