We have all stood there looking in the depths of our refrigerators, pulling out little white boxes or plastic containers; we cautiously open them, sniff, and think to ourselves “Hmmmm I wonder??????” Leftovers can be harboring millions of unsafe bacteria and still look and smell perfectly fine.
Well wonder no more; we are here to tell you. If you can’t remember when you bought or cooked it, toss it. Nope-we aren’t about increasing food waste but a bout of food poisoning is no joking matter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness reported in the US each year, resulting in 350,000 hospitalizations, 5,000 deaths, and who knows how many unexplained “stomach bugs”. So folks, when in doubt, throw it out.
Here are a few guidelines to help you out:
• Label the contents in leftover containers with what is inside and the date it was prepared or purchased (you can do this with some tape and a pen).
• Wash your hands (for 20 seconds with warm water and soap) frequently.
• Wash utensils and plates after each use.
• Wash fruits and veggies even if you will be peeling them.
• Don’t wash meats, poultry and fish prior to cooking.
• Don’t “cross contaminate"! Keep cooked and raw foods separated.
• Refrigerate promptly- within two hours (one hour during the heat of summer).
• Store hot foods in smaller containers so they will cool faster.
• Use this handy guide from the CDC to determine how long you can store food.
Be safe in there (the refrigerator)!