For many people, the best part of Thanksgiving –besides spending time with the family of course—is the left overs. Sandwiches, casseroles, soups and more are just a few culinary possibilities, but only if you store Thanksgiving leftovers properly. Each year thousands of people visit the emergency room because of food poisoning. And it’s no joke. While mild symptoms can be managed easily, some cases are severe and may even require hospitalization. Seniors, children, pregnant woman and those with a compromised immune system are at special risk for serious complications.
The symptoms of food poisoning aren’t pretty. They include nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. Making guests sick is no way to show them you’re grateful! If you or someone you know does exhibit signs of post-Thanksgiving food poisoning, Mayo Clinic suggests calling a doctor. Do it as soon as possible if there is extreme pain, blood in vomit or stools, muscle weakness, blurred vision or signs of dehydration such as excessive thirst, little urination, dizziness or weakness.
Store Thanksgiving Leftovers Like a Pro
Some tips for safe handling of leftovers starts before food is “left over.”
- Wash all produce before cooking, especially root vegetables. They can be contaminated with bacteria from the soil.
- Be sure you wash your hands frequently while preparing food, especially when working with raw meats and poultry.
- Wash everything your raw turkey comes in contact with to avoid cross contamination. Don’t reuse plates, platters or utensils that have been used on raw poultry. If you do, be sure they’ve been washed with soap and warm water.
- If you prefer to cook stuffing inside the turkey cavity, use a food thermometer. That way, you can check the temperature of the stuffing to a safe 165 degrees F. before serving.
- Remove stuffing cooked inside the turkey for storage.
- Don’t let food sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Store in the smallest container possible, and use a tight-fitting lid. This tip not only saves room in the refrigerator, it eliminates air from surrounding the food. According to research, the air causes it to spoil more quickly. Large plastic baggies are great for storing leftovers, too. But make sure you squeeze most of the air out of the bag before sealing.
- Reheat leftovers to the right temperature before eating, about 140-165 degrees is safe for most foods.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Most leftovers are safe to eat for several days after cooking if they’re properly stored. But if you’re not sure, don’t take a chance.
Store Thanksgiving leftovers properly and be thankful for all the delicious meals ahead!